Empowered for What?

Post a Comment » Written on November 25th, 2009     
Filed under: Community Development
For the past two days Ronna and I have visited a CWR program in Gujarat State in India among tribal people in the forests. After landing at Mumbai airport, we drove for nearly eight hours to the beautiful mountains and forests where the tribal people are living. Traditionally these people have been able to survive from the resources in the forests, but in recent years the Indian Department of Forestry has greatly restricted their use of the forest products.  Most of the people, both men and women, have been forced to work as agricultural day laborers, field workers. The daily wage is about 90 cents.  Unfortunately they are only able to work about 15 days a month.

This is the third year of the CWR program implemented by the Hindustani Covenant Church.  The approach of HCC is always comprehensive. The various components of the project include day care for pre-school age children, education, micro finance, vocational training, medical care, and women’s and men’s self help groups (SHGs).
Each member of the SHGs has their own personal savings pass book and each saves between 40 – 60 cents per month.  Most have been saving for three years. We asked the women how their lives have been affected by participation in the self-help groups. One women responded, “I now have enough funds for the happy and sad times”, meaning she was had sufficient funds to cover celebrations like weddings and funerals. Another said, “Before I had no say in family matters, but now my husband respects me more and I participate with him in decision making.” Because of the group savings, the women are able take out small loans when needed at low interest. Some have received loans for micro businesses like flower ornament making, vegetable sales, and basket making.

All of this was greatly encouraging for me to see hear, but what impressed me most was that the women said that one of the great benefits of the SHG’s is that now they are able to help others in need. Each SHG looks for at least three families in need that they can help.  These women are being empowered to improve their own lives and the lives of their families, but ultimately they see their empowerment as a means of empowering others.  Beautiful.

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