Women are the most vulnerable target group in our working area. At the same time, we see a woman as the key person in the development of her entire family. Hence, an important part of Sakhi’s work relies in the support, education and training of women, most importantly of Dalit women and Devadasi. As such, we developed a women empowerment program that includes multiple interventions:
- Implementation of their legally fixed basic rights and entitlements
- Support in creating a livelihood
- Women’s Health
- Housing and Sanitation
- Creation of awareness in legal affairs and civic rights
Self-reliance and Livelihoods Enhancement for Women
After the mining industry boomed in Bellary district, many citizens left their traditional livelihoods and shifted to more mining-related employment opportunities. However, when mining activities were stopped, people lost their source of income. The mining also affected the fertility of their land immensely which made it impossible for them to rebuild a livelihood in farming. Employment schemes were developed on Gram Panchayat (village council) level, however those guarantee only 100 days of work which is not enough to provide a year-long livelihood for a family. Consequently, people started migrating in search of a job. This phenomenon affected the youth’s education significantly.
Given that situation, we started to design and conduct training sessions on creating alternative and sustainable livelihoods. Sakhi had promoted a young women cooperative already at the time. Now it was about connecting both women cooperatives and income generating activities while conducting the new training. Soon, we could notice the impact that our program had on it’s participants: Around twenty of the women that we had trained on millet food processing started their own millet Roti unit which depicts now their regular source of income.
Jenugudu Women Cooperative
Jenugudu is the name of the women’s cooperative that Sakhi promotes. The women involved started off by preparing millet Rotis and side dishes in order to sell them through the cooperative. Nowadays, they are also selling stationary supplies, such as books, as well as terracotta jewellery and decoration that they order from another livelihood cooperative of Dalit women. Every woman involved earns about five to sixthousand Rupees per month.
Eventhough the women don’t generate much profit, they keep running their business with Sakhi’s support. Monthly, the directors of the cooperative meet in order to guarantee an effective running of Jenugudu and to increase the participation of the women. The secretary of the cooperative is monitoring the activities. More income generating training sessions are planned with the motive to introduce more women to the cooperative.
Access to Social Entitlements and Inclusion under MGNREGA & PMJDY
We have supported more than 350 Devadasi women in ten villages and five Panchayats of Hospet and it’s environment in terms of employment, health, children’s education and government schemes (state: February 2019). Within the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) schemes, we help these women to get a job card and apply for a job. We also create a communication channel between them and their respective Panchayats, mediate if necessary, ensure fair working conditions and on time salary. To guarantee their health, we conduct health camps and support them legally and financially in case they get into work-related accidents and need medical care.
We help women to get a proper bank account at Canara Bank under the Indian financial inclusion program Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and offer support in enrolling in social safeguarding schemes such as the government Old Age Pension or the Devadasi Pension.
In the last couple of years, Sakhi passed through more than 3100 applications for a various number of government welfare schemes that are particularly available for woman laborers and children (state: February 2019).
Counselling Courses on Women’s Justice and Welfare
We organize various courses on women’s justice and welfare counselling for our women & youth facilitators and staff members. Each of the training sessions takes place monthly once and helps enhancing the awareness and capacities among our staff. They do not only depict a platform to exchange about incidents and conditions in the field but they also enlarge the perspective and knowledge of our staff.
- The members of Jenugudu Women Cooperative are involved in a variety of income generating activities which, step by step, take this cooperative towards a great sustainability. However, it is not possible to reach the goal of sustainability only by offering training sessions on various activities. The women are in need of an advanced food processing technology and an addition of the millet value as well.
- New possibilities for women cooperatives exist in the mining affected areas of Hosapete Taluka.
- The women from the countryside who attended our training sessions have the opportunity to earn Rs.3000 to 4000 minimum without having to migrate. They were also able to build vast networks in our working area.
- Jenugudu cooperative put up a stall at the Mental Health Professional conference which was held at Mallige Hotel, Hospet with diverse small millets products and marketed. It inspired future activities.
- Mining affected families are enabled to build sustainable and self-reliant alternative livelihoods.
- Empowerment of women and young people of the lower strata through diverse training sessions.