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. Widows face additional negative social stigma as they are considered bad luck.  Assisi Aid Projects is committed to ensuring that these women and their children thrive.

The project supports 1656 single women in 46 rural villages in Tamil Nadu. With our implementing partner, Integrated Development Trust, the 106 Single Women’s Groups provide a safe space for women to share their stories and form supportive relationships. They meet monthly for practical training that builds skills to generate an income, such as finance, tailoring and farming.  Women access interest free rolling loans through the program to start small businesses.  Other activities include education on legal rights and access to free legal aid. Single women are assisted to access government support schemes including widow’s pensions, disability pensions, and subsidies for toilet construction. Through the program, many women learn to sign their name which is required on government forms.

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. 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 create positive change in their communities. 

 “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.”

The project takes a holistic approach, creating awareness of gender equity by including men. The Village Development Committees provide the opportunity for collective action to advocate to government and to influence village improvements. The Village Development Committees provide a space for men and women to work together, and initiate discussions and action between men and women on gender inequality and discrimination.

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