2013 and yet , in many parts of the country a woman is regarded as “the unsung heroine who works from dawn to dusk”. This is particularly so in the rural belt of North India. The men folk have been enjoying an undeserving yet unchallenged superiority over women. A woman is dynamic in the many roles she plays. Women face many social challenges today - whether it be moving out of the house to seek education or for an employment what to say of seeking a loan from a Bank/credit institution.
That woman are as and many a times more capable than the men has been proven by the Gender Equity and Women’s Empowerment Program operational at Deepalaya since its inception in 1979. Apart from being POSITIVELY DISCRIMINATED towards girls and young women in its Education and Health Programs, Deepalaya has organized adult women into Self Help Groups and linked them up with various entrepreneurial opportunities through Micro-finance.
While women’s empowerment has always been an agenda close to Deepalaya’s heart, 0rganized efforts at SHG formation and empowering women with various skills has been happening since early 2000’s. Till date Deepalaya has formed 939 SHG’s in 3 states of Delhi, Haryana and Uttarakhand with a membership of more than 10,000 women. The members have been trained on various matters of SHG management- book keeping, record keeping, dialoguing with Banks/FI’s etc. In addition, workshops on Health and Child Rearing, Legal Rights, Water Management, Naturopathy and various other social skills have been provided on a regular basis.
In the year 2011-12, the 814 active SHG’s had saved Rs. 8207034 cumulatively over years and had interloaned Rs.14361700 cumulatively from their savings. In addition they earned another Rs.20.46 lakhs by way of service charges from interloaning to members. The members have established various businesses – livestock rearing, petty shops, plying of public transport, eateries etc.
That the program has indeed EMPOWERED women are exemplified by various success stories. Given below is a member from the Tauru Block of Haryana where Deepalaya SHG’s have been operational since the year 2000. The woman have broken the traditional mindset –that a woman always needs the security and protection of a man in her life….as a child her father, as an adult her husband and in old age her son. While the women cherish the men in various roles in their life, they stand TALL in the patriarchal environment around, and proud of the positions they have reached due to their sheer grit, determination and guidance all along the way.
Shehnaaz (46) from Shikarpur village another group member who herself never went to school, not only educated her children but also motivated others to do so. She recollects her initial days of joining the Group in 2004, her husband vehemently opposed her attending the meetings and very often beat her up. She recalls the various excuses she used to make to get out of her home and quietly sneak into the meetings.
During a financial crisis in the family Shehnaz took a loan from the SHG and bought a buffalo; that was the day her husband realized her value in the family. Now he gives her due respect and encourages her participating in the SHG activities. Shenaz now dreams of opening a School for young girls. She attended a training program organized by Deepalaya where she learnt about Legal provisions for helping women in distress. Armed with this new found information, Shehnaz has been helping several ladies to counter the domestic violence and has stood with them at every step-be it going to police station or counseling their families. She recalled the case of a young lady who was being sexually harassed by her father in law and had to be operated upon to remove the gag (cloth) from her throat. The victim was counseled to lodge a complaint and was supported by all the ladies in the village-the culprit is now behind bars. SHG has become a movement against social evils. Shehnaaz believes that females have an equal right to live a respectful and dignified life she thanks Deepalaya for taking the initiative to EMPOWER the women of Haryana.