Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

As already mentioned, more than 95% of the membership in SHGs is of women. The important thing to note here is not only do they now have savings in their own name, access to credit, and have experienced a rise in status coming in the wake of this money power, every member of each SHG also undergoes between 8 and 14 modules of training in a variety of topics that prepare them to face the challenges of integrating with the mainstream. To this end, MYRADA conducts more than 5,000 training programmes for CBOs each year.

A recent rapid stock-taking review has shown that more than 200 women from self help groups have been elected to Panchayaths and other local bodies.

MYRADA can take credit for organising the devadasi women of Belgaum District (Karnataka) not only to work for their own social and economic development but even more importantly, to carry out a movement through which dedications of future generations of devadasis has been effectively contained. The women now have an organisation of their own (MASS). They have also expanded their activities to include prevention of child marriage, besides which they have a legal support programme that is available to all vulnerable people and not just the devadasi members of MASS. Adoption of a similar approach directly by the Government in the neighbouring district of Bijapur-Bagalkot, and the involvement of MASS by the Government and NGOs to support similar movements in Raichur and Koppal districts have been other achievements.

As already mentioned in a prior paragraph, MYRADA has been instrumental in setting up MEADOW, a Private Limited Company that is owned, managed, and staffed by 200 young women. They are linked with a major watch manufacturer earn wages upward of Rs.3,000 per month from making watchstraps, assembling watches and table clocks, and crafting jewellery. Initially, MYRADA had been asked to manage this programme directly but refused on the ground that its role was to promote the growth of appropriate people’s institutions to manage their own programmes. MEADOW had been functioning successfully for the past 8 years, has built up a good asset base (land, buildings, machinery), and has been making profits each year. The women themselves are respected as major bread earners in their families; they are taking their own decisions, are no longer under pressure to marry early, and have the freedom to do many things where earlier they were controlled by their families.

Through Community Managed Resource Centres MYRADA has been able to establish legal help desks in more than 25 locations, and in most locations the services are being provided mainly to women.

In the last 2 years MYRADA has been able to organise around 350 SHGs of female sex workers. Though this was not originally planned (the plan was only to work on HIV-AIDS issues with high risk groups), the women showed interest in forming SHGs. These SHGs are also receiving institution-building training inputs, and some of them have also taken membership in the Community Managed Resource Centres where they are well accepted by the others.