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#34 – Empowering the Poor through Microenterprise and Skills Training

Help women and girls in rural India know their rights and feel empowered to develop a sustainable quality of life. 

The Situation 

After a successful first year of funding for this program, this video and the results shared below show the difference that this programming is making to address the systemic issues of injustice that women face in 30 rural villages.  

Critical issues in these villages include the disempowerment of women, human trafficking, and high rates of alcoholism and drug abuse.  Poverty requires women to find new sources of income. The women need training, coaching, and support in order to establish entrepreneurial businesses. 

Sisters’ Response 

For more than 30 years, Sister-led St Joseph’s Social Service Center has empowered the poor and marginalized in this region. The key to their success has been to engage women in educational, vocational, and self-help programs that change their views.  The programs they offer and the support they provide are well attended.   

Our mission is to empower the poor and the marginalized with a view to restoring to them their human dignity. We believe in developing people’s capacity to grow and enjoy improved quality of life, enabling people to take ownership for their own holistic development, building a sustainable and integrated development model, and promoting and protecting the dignity of every human being.”   

Sr. Lucia Sebastian 

As a result of these programs over 500 women have formed community-based cooperatives that loan money among themselves to create, expand and sustain small businesses. These women engage in micro-enterprises and are moving toward being self-sustaining. The sisters offer women’s support groups, educational programs, and addiction prevention, intervention, and support programs.  They build leadership in the villages to assist all in moving from subsistence living to stability. 

Funds Needed

$7,940 (second year) 

How funds will be used: 

This successful program seeks to intensify its program offerings to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in 30 villages. 

  • Leadership training on the worth and value of women– In August of 2021, 236 women received skills training that helped them grow in confidence and a mindset shift that prepared them to take on life challenges with the ongoing support of the women’s group in their village.  Year 2 funding will allow this programming to occur in the other 15 villages. 
  • Leadership Council– from those who have participated in the leadership training in the villages a council of 12 women have been selected for additional training.  These leaders were critical during the pandemic to keep the sisters aware of the emerging issues.  This council recognized the problem that children faced when they could not attend school for 1-1/2 years.  They formed children’s groups in all the villages which helped reduce their feelings of isolation, helplessness, fear and depression. 
  • Entrepreneur Support- during the pandemic some women who attend the women’s support group received small loans to begin rearing cows and sheep to support their families.  Three women recognized the need to provide animal feed at a reasonable cost to prevent exploitation of these new entrepreneurs.  This is just one small example of how effective these empowerment training sessions are.  Year 2 funding will allow the purchasing of more goats for the women
  • Human trafficking prevention for 100 women – village animators and members of the women’s co-op assist in identifying women and girls who would benefit from education about child labor, child marriage, and bonded labor which are prevalent in these villages.  Naturally, women are reluctant to talk openly about this issue which has only grown worse during the covid crisis when food scarcity pushed many families to desperate measures for survival.  These educational groups help the women and girls understand that there is help available.  They help the participants face the depression, stress, and even suicidal ideation, as they form plans to deal with the underlying poverty that is placing them in these desperate situations.  Ongoing groups for the girls supported by the women entrepreneurs, village animators, and the sisters are protecting these girls from trafficking.  Year 2 funding will support these ongoing groups for girls. 
  • Human rights training for 200 women– Last year 250 women, teenagers, and a few men benefitted from a two-day training on legal matters provided by the Legal Education and Advocacy Development (LEAD) group.  They learned about their rights, especially related to sexual abuse, marriage laws, and physical abuse.  They learned how to approach police when problems arise.  The Leadership Council has continued to gather information on issues that the villagers face to prepare for a second series of workshops with year 2 funding from SRW. 
  • Ala-Non Groups– Support groups for women who experience alcohol and drug abuse in their families has been an essential service to each of the 30 villages since June of 2018.  Ala non members feel confident when they confront their addicted loved one and encourage them to attend the personal counseling and attend regular AA meetings available at the Sisters’ Centers. Year 2 funding provides snacks, materials, and other support for these programs. 
  • Local animator’s training and stipend – each of these villages has a local animator who receives training and a small stipend to help organize programming and support the growing local leadership. Year 2 will provide ongoing training and stipend for these village leaders. 

Systemic Impact 

Women and girls in 30 villages in rural India know their rights and feel empowered to develop their capacity to enjoy a sustainable quality of life. 

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