Before SOS Children stepped in, many children from the neighbourhood around our Children’s Village in Jammu were on the brink of losing their parents. Widespread and ongoing poverty meant that numerous families were finding bringing up their children increasingly unsustainable.
However, women from various communities around the Children’s Village felt they had a lot more to offer than the role traditionally assigned to their gender. They believed that they could use their skills to make money and improve their financial circumstances.
The women came to SOS Children for guidance. Together, these women excelled in activities as diverse as sewing, farming and handicrafts, and on our advice they formed ten local groups and began to put their skills to commercial use.
It was not always easy for the women. The first hurdle they faced was resistance from their husbands and other family members who felt that their aspirations overstepped the boundaries of their gender.
However, through persistence and persuasion, they eventually managed to convince their relatives that their plans could benefit not only individual families but the whole community.
The venture was a success. The women made regular savings and, after a few years, were ready to expand. Again, our guidance was paramount in taking the next steps. By paying back a small loan, the women won the confidence of the bank. This enabled them to secure a far bigger investment equivalent to roughly £6,500, allowing them to realise their dreams of large-scale business expansion.
Things have developed beyond belief over the last few years. But what the women really want to achieve is a better future for their daughters.
Noorie Jaan is president of one of the groups.
“We got married very early and do not want the same life for our daughters,” she says. “We have learnt to earn so late in our lives, but we want our daughters to learn early and become financially independent before marriage.”
Their innovation and effort has saved their families, ensuring that many more children can grow up with their natural parents. They have made life more sustainable, and greatly enhanced prospects for girls growing up in the region today. Thanks to the work of these women, encouraged and aided by SOS Children, the next generation of Marh women have a vastly better outlook.
Each woman has made a personal commitment to inspire another ten to take charge of their lives and make a better life for their families, their children and themselves. Together, they aim to educate at least 1,000 girls and women from the community.
These women have already demonstrated that the extraordinary is achievable. With a little commitment and the help of SOS Children, who knows what the future holds for girls in India?
Our community work is creating success stories for women around the world. At our newest Village in Chipata, we are already helping women utilise their skills to make a sustainable living.