When women have increased access to education, resources and control over their lives, their economic status improves. This in turn has a positive effect on their children and families, helping to change attitudes and raise aspirations.
Akbari’s life revolved around her eight children and a husband who hurt her physically, starved her as a form of punishment and kept her confined to home.
“I had to do whatever he said and was so scared. Once, when I was feeding my baby, he hit me so hard I was knocked unconscious.”
He treated the children the same. Sometimes, they got so hungry they missed school. Bravely, Akbari confided in an SOS social worker and was enrolled on a community support programme. With financial help and counselling, she gradually gained the confidence to ask her husband to leave. After he moved out, we helped her set up a loom at home where she is now earning enough to feed and educate her children. She is also teaching them about gender equality – her sons help in the house and her daughters no longer have to wait for their brothers to eat first.
“I am so thankful to SOS Children’s Villages. Without their support I would still be living in the same hell.”
Issues for women in India
- Persistence of discrimination based on gender, caste, colour and religion
- High rate of child marriages – almost half of Indian women marry before 18
- Tendency to favour boys for the best education, food and opportunities
- High drop-out rate for girls at primary school – up to two-thirds in some areas
- A national literacy rate of just 54% for women, one of the world's lowest
Women join forces in Jammu
Since 1989, India’s northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir has been disrupted by religious tensions between Muslims and Hindus.
Sudesh Malla, project coordinator of the SOS community support programmes in Jammu said: “Militancy has traumatised the whole region and many women have lost their husbands. We run activity centres where women can train in skills to work from home, earn a living and educate their children. The absence of a male family figure is no longer a handicap.”
In 2010, SOS Children’s Village Jammu invited 150 women to set up self-help groups to boost their earning power. Having married very young and spent much of their lives confined to the home, they needed support in practical skills. At first they faced resistance but within two years had set up savings schemes and secured bank loans to invest in their businesses. Other groups followed suit and are encouraging more women to join them.
Noorie Jaan, president of a local group said: “We married very early and don’t want the same life for our daughters – we want them to become financially independent before marriage.”