Community way to Women Empowerment

The condition of women in throughout much of Northern India can be characterized as a systemic pattern of gross gender inequity. This condition is only worse when one tries to consider the plight of rural women. We consider the following facts:

A Quick Look on Stake of Deprived Women

  • The illiteracy rate among females is nearly twice the illiteracy rate of males. A staggering 62% of females in Uttar Pradesh (UP) are illiterate. The disparity only rises in the rural areas, where nearly 80% of women are illiterate
  • For minimal wage tasks, the men receive is between Rs.35-45 a day. However, women doing the same work over the same period receive only Rs.20-30 per day.

Opportunities For Disadvantages :

One problem that has become of increasing concern to the doers at NEED is the lack of educational inputs which denies rural women any chance at receiving a focused human resource education including technical education. The statistical numbers once again provide a glimpse at the problem. There are currently 21 training and technical courses in the state of UP. However, only 7% of the students at these institutions are women. Of those 7%, nearly all are urban women. This leaves rural women at an absolute disadvantage. Those that need the opportunities the most are the ones least likely to get it.

Decision Making Process :

Further, women make up more than 50% of the population in rural parts of northern India, yet this is not reflected in their participation in public life and civil society, particularly in the areas of socio-economic and political empowerment. Women’s participation at all levels of society is essential in order to take into account women’s needs and to ensure that women’s perspectives are incorporated into every level of the decision-making process.

Women to Feel Power :

For millions of women throughout India, the course of their lives is largely out of their control. For these women, decisions of when to get married, when to have children, or how many children to have, are not autonomous choices. Instead, they are often dictated by family, husband or society’s customs. Women are rarely educated or receive any vocational training and they are therefore completely dependent, both financially and socially, on their husband or family. Lacking control over such crucial life decisions, it is easy for many women to feel powerless.

Ascribed Rigid Social Values :

India’s population has recently surpassed the one billion mark out of which 84 million are considered to be very poor. In the past years, the number of women living in poverty has increased disproportionately to the number of men living in poverty due to women’s limited access to power, education, training and productive resources, and the rigidity of socially ascribed roles.

Hence, the principal challenges lies ahead of NEED is the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Deprived Community, Especially Women, through building their Grass-Root Organizations, Creation of Opportunity & Enhancing the Human Resource Capacity in A Sustainable Manner. The broader question of what sort of opportunities these women ought to have is rarely considered.

The condition of women in throughout much of Northern India can be characterized as a systemic pattern of gross gender inequity. This condition is only worse when one tries to consider the plight of rural women . The notion of empowering women to break with the perceived role may be alive in the cities. However, reflecting the vast rural-urban divide present throughout India, it is never discussed at the rural level. Clearly, until these attitudes are challenged at an institutional level, and opportunities are made available, such conditions will not begin to change.

Objectives :

  • To mobilize marginalized women into forming self-help groups, which provide the basis for credit programmes and credit challenges.
  • To train NGO/CBDOs workers and other primary stakeholders in the role of micro-enterprise and micro-finance in broader gender issues, and to establish sustainable relationships with other NGOs in the area of Women’s Enterprise for future collaboration and exchange of ideas and experiences.
  • To build the knowledge of Primary Stake Holders in management techniques for micro-enterprise and micro-finance, particularly in areas such as documentation and reports, market assessment and planning.
  • To create a climate for sustainable and replicable women’s self reliance, through increased value, respect and dignity.
  • To provide demand driven vocational skills and business training to marginalised women

The Center :

To begin to rectify this gross injustice, we at NEED have begun to envision the creation of a WOMAN Center (W-Women O-Opportunity MAN-Management Center) dedicated exclusively to the needs of rural women. We aim to create a dynamic center that will cater to the wide range of needs and create a diverse set of opportunities to forward the cause of women empowerment. As a result of an evaluation of its activities, NEED has found that formation of SHGs and provision of credit is often not enough. NEED has realized that micro-credit initiatives, if limited to forming Women’s SHGs and providing credit for consumption purposes, may not help women to become mainstream partners. Credit alone does not necessarily facilitate the sustainability and growth of economic activities. Generating interest amongst communities, forming SHGs, capacity building, gender sensitization and training in creating sustainable economic development are just some of the essentials that are needed to make women partners and not just beneficiaries.

NEED believes that the way to expand women’s participation in broader policy, advocacy & productive areas beyond credit is to open a specialist women’s training center in Lucknow. NEED has acquired a piece of land totaling 6,000 square feet to build a residential centre of excellence for women.

NEED would also like to expand its work in training NGO workers in gender issues and will incorporate this as a major area of the centre’s work. The centre will contain the following components:

Entrepreneurial Training Center – training in financial management, product marketing, the development of demand driven businesses and how to create social change in their communities. The methods used will be practical, live demonstrations in real situations in order to reach illiterate women.

Micro-finance Training and Facilitation – this unit will train women to create the basic micro-finance infrastructure and will sensitize formal institutions in understanding grassroots realities and in designing better financial products for the rural poor. It will also look at how to use the capital for social change.

Educational Intervention Programme and Gender Based Training – Over the next few years, NEED will build a curriculum covering many issues affecting women, based on NEED’s experience at grassroots level and the experiences of social service practitioners from many NGOs. The course will be partly based in the center and partly in the field in order to prepare workers for rural social work.

Crafts Center – this section will provide an area and tools for women to learn various crafts and to hold workshops to learn technical skills from each other to forward their business. Some examples of crafts currently being made include chikan craft and zardozi (embroidery), jute products, candles and incense sticks.

Retail Section – this section would allow women to sell their products direct to consumers, thus avoiding middlemen and increasing the women’s profits.

Anticipated impact:

Economic Security and Material Change: The impact in this area will be seen in higher wages and income, increased assets, generation of employment, improved physical well being, improved education and health for girls and a better environment.

Human Rights: There will be an increase in business skills and leadership, self-respect and dignity, self-reliance, social discipline and responsibility.

Bargaining Power: The impact will be seen in women’s increased ability to bargain, make demands, seek resources and negotiate fair treatment or equal access to resources. Women will also gain direct exposure to market forces

Human Resources: More NGO workers will be trained in gender issues and will be able to replicate NEED’s programs at grassroots level, thereby increasing the coverage of the program .