When every woman thrives – India

The project

We empower women to achieve their social and economic potential by facilitating Single Women’s Groups to increase community participation and providing training and loans to initiate income-generating projects. The project recognises the interrelated dimensions of poverty and discrimination and uses an integrated approach that supports women to improve their income, education, self-confidence, and family health.

The project supports 1656 single women in 46 rural villages in Tamil Nadu, India. With our implementing partner, LINK Integrated Development Trust LINK, we work to strengthen the existing skills of women in these communities so that they can continue to engage with and develop initiatives to support themselves financially.

Project outcomes and achievements

The Single Women’s Groups came together to form the Federation of Women’s Groups in 2018. The Federation of Women’s Groups is independent and advocates for the rights of women within the Tamil Nadu communities of the Kanchipuram, Trichy, Ariyalur, and Perambalur districts.

Federation of Women’s Groups members participate in training sessions on gender rights, create petitions, and establish people’s banks. This has resulted in an increase in the number of women with the knowledge and skills to advocate and initiate change in their communities.  The Federation of Women’s Groups organised events and a mass postcard campaign to advocate for improved rights for widows.  The project strengthens the capacity of Federation of Women’s Groups members in managing funds, income generation, and engaging in networking and advocacy on behalf of its members.

During our 2017 project evaluation, women’s group members said:

  • “Being a member of the Women’s Groups has given us bonding, purpose in life and provided access to financial help from our own Women’s Groups and Peoples’ Bank organised by the project… Our self-esteem has been enhanced, self-respect increased and social acceptance is evident.”
  • “Earlier I used to be worried about my future, now after joining the group I am relieved and have hope.”
  • “The Community respects us, we have become the head of the family and responsible person for the family, we motivate and support our children to study well and go for higher studies.”
  • “Earlier we were not invited to the auspicious occasions in the village, now people are inviting us for these functions.”
  • “Now we are not timid and we feel bold enough to talk to others.”

The challenge

Widowed, divorced, or unmarried women in rural Indian villages face discrimination, isolation and poverty. This impacts their mental and physical health, participation in community life and ability to earn an income. Assisi Aid Projects is committed to ensuring that these women and their children thrive and access their rights.

Life in rural Indian communities is typically male led, creating economic and social dependency, leaving women powerless, especially if they are single. Widows face additional negative social stigma as they are considered bad luck.  This makes it difficult for them to support themselves, and their families.

Our goals

  1. Women have increased incomes
  2. Women influence social and institutional change
  3. Women have improved wellbeing and self-confidence
  4. Communities address alcohol related issues
  5. Our implementing partner, Integrated Development Trust, has improved capacity to implement projects.

Activities

The project is implemented through 106 Single Women’s Groups and 30 Village Development Committees. The Single Women’s Groups provide a safe space for women to share their stories and form supportive relationships. They meet monthly and participate in a structured program that includes:

  • Livelihoods, business and financial training. Practical training that provide women with skills to generate an income, such as tailoring and farming.
  • Literacy education. Many of the women in the program are illiterate and unable to sign their name.
  • Access to interest free rolling loans. This provides women with seed money to start small business ventures.
  • Education on women’s rights including legal rights and access to free legal aid.
  • Psychosocial support and leadership skills to encourage women to actively participate in their community.
  • Awareness and access to government support schemes including widow’s pensions, disability pensions, and subsidies for toilet construction.

The project takes a holistic approach, creating awareness of gender equity through the inclusion of men in the program. The Village Development Committees provide the opportunity to mobilise collective action to advocate to government and to influence village improvements. Further, the Village Development Committees provide a space for men and women to work together, and act as an entry point to initiate discussions and action between men and women on gender inequality and discrimination.

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This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program.