Charlet Mary is a 42-year-old physically challenged woman living in Kanyakumari. Her husband works as coolie and their livelihood depends on their daily wage. She has two children both girls studying primary education. The economic status of the family is very poor to satisfy their basic needs.
She used the opportunity of vocational training offered by a programme supported by Concern India Foundation where she learned to make creative products using natural fibres. She was a tailor before she joined this training programme. She was encouraged to do better after she got more orders from her neighbours. She saves money through the Self Help Group. At present, she manages to run the family and has started motivating others to join the vocational training programme which helps support their basic needs.
Charlet is one of the 20 women who have benefitted from this vocational training programme that takes care of their livelihood and families by entering into sustainable economic activity. They live in this agricultural village where banana plantation is the major crop. The fibre extracted from banana trees grown here is of superior quality with more strength and texture and is used as an excellent raw material to create interesting artefacts and household items.
The project identifies trainees mostly destitute, widowed and marginalised women and trains them for a year on products made out of natural fibers like banana, sisil and jute. In addition they also offered market support for the products. Forging linkage with banks for availing credit for investment is also given to the trainees thus creating a better life for them and their families.
– Rathna Deepak, Project Co-ordinator, Concern India Foundation (Chennai)
Though less than 100 kms away from the pulsating city of Mumbai, the Vikramgadh Taluka in Maharashtra, is predominantly a tribal area comprising of about 94 villages with a population of about a lakh.
Agriculture provides bare means for survival and alternate source of livelihood is infrequent. Lack of infrastructure in terms of interior roads and transport availability make it difficult to travel even shorter distances. Literacy rate is low, hygiene facilities minimal, early marriages an accepted norm, medical facilities far away and infant mortality is quite high.
Under these circumstances, one of the programmes Concern India Foundation supports here started as a mobile health clinic. The programme aims to co-create rural communities which are self reliant, sustainable and ecologically healthy. To combat the high infant mortality rate, the programme has set up an antenatal clinic in the area.
However there were some challenges. The distance between hamlets is about a couple of kilometres making accessibility difficult. Also the tribals insist on using traditional methods of home remedies and continue to deliver children at home through mid wives resulting in higher infant mortality rates.
The programme decided to take help of people from within the community. To convince the locals about the positives of institutionalised delivery, a capable local person preferably a woman, is chosen from a cluster of adjoining hamlets and given sound training in basics of hygiene and health care.
Once every 10 to 15 days, the health volunteer visits every pregnant woman in her allocated cluster, raises awareness among the residents about hygiene and institutional delivery, necessary time gaps between pregnancies and wisdom of family planning among the villagers. She also facilitates for the mother-to-be to have periodic checkups.
Initially piloted in 10 tribal villages in 2000, the programme reach is now 25 villages and plans to cover 25 more over the next three years.
– Ameeta Munshi, Resource Mobilisation, Concern India Foundation, (Mumbai)
“I am no bird;and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” – Charlotte Brontë.
The independence of women has always been questioned in the patriarchal society. With the amount of violence against women in the whole country, how can we empower women? What is the key to the success of the womenfolk?
With all these questions in mind, I visited a programme supported by Concern India Foundation in a rural area of Kolkata and I came back amazed at the livelihood opportunities the project provided here for women empowerment.
The programme has formed several Self Help Groups with the village women. At these centres they are trained to rear goats and prepare vermicompost products to support their families.
“I have reared four goats and sold one of them to buy medicines for my ailing mother-in-law”, said Sadhana Tarafdar, a member of the group. Sadhana is just one of the many women who are now able to support their families in time of need.
So far the project has been successful in forming more than 100 Self Help Groups in the area.
– Sudakshina Aich, Programmes Co-ordinator, Concern India Foundation (Kolkata)
“I don’t know what is happening to me. I am scared about everything. What have I done to deserve this? I see other children laughing, running and playing around and I cannot join them. I miss my mother,” says
Rewa whose name has been changed here to protect her identity. She is 12-years-old and is 8 months pregnant. She was continuously raped by her father and his friends after her mother passed away.
Rewa was rescued and brought to the Thane Municipal Hospital by one of Concern India Foundation supported programmes that works at promoting gender equality and justice through women empowerment.
Cases like these and a lot more are taken up by this inspiring programme that specialises as an anti-dowry and women’s guidance cell. It was started by the College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan in 2005.
It focusses on issues of dowry and domestic violence inflicted on women. It offers counselling, legal aid, shelter, awareness programmes on gender issues and educational programmes for youth on family life.
– Samantha D’souza, Executive Programmes, Concern India Foundation (Mumbai)