Lack of education, hard work, violence and abuse – indian rural woman usually have a dificult fate. Help comes from Ashankur, a project of the jesuit mission.
Ashankur – Seed of Hope
Offering women a future
For this year's Christmas donation campaign, we have chosen a project in India, more precisely a training centre for women in Bhokar, which is located north of Pune. Under the name "Ashankur", which means "seed of hope", Sister Daphne has built up the training centre specifically for women over many years.
"Indian women, especially in rural areas, usually have a difficult fate. As girls already, they are neglected, do not get any school education, have to work hard and are abused. The problem becomes insoluble when marriage takes place and the family cannot pay the bride price. Then, there is often serious violence or even attempted murder against the women."
- Sister Daphne, the director -
Ashankur has already reached 7,000 women from 22 villages
These are issues at which the training centre starts. It is about much more than education and learning a profession: it is about self-reliance and recognising one's own value as a human being. The centre organises, for example, self-help groups in the villages where the women meet regularly to discuss their problems and gather ideas on how to improve everyday life. They are guided to actively participate in the development of the village and to get involved in local administration. With this approach, the project has already reached 7,000 women from 22 villages. Sister Daphne can definitely feel the successes: "More respect for women, more harmony in the families, as well as cross-caste and cross-religious collaboration. Even more girls are being sent to school." However, this brings financial worries for many families - because they hardly have any money for education. This is another reason why Ashankur relies on donations.
Elements of the project
Education in various sectors
In order to stand up against these conditions of discrimination and oppression, Ashankur was founded. The centre is a contact point for young girls and women from the surrounding villages. Here, they can learn new skills and knowledge within a protected space. Supported by the Jesuit Mission, the centre offers trainings in areas such as organic farming, tailoring, jewellery design, leatherwork, nursing, computer skills and law. Above all, a basic school education is provided. This is enormously important as a basis, since many of the girls and women were not able to attend school before. But also political education should not be missing from the "curriculum".
Helping people to help themselves
Sister Daphne is a qualified social worker and has been working with women in rural India for more than 15 years. Here, she mainly works with Dalits and Tribals, the so-called "untouchables" who are excluded from the caste system, as well as the indigenous people who are strongly discriminated against. Both population groups are particularly affected by the social exclusion and material poverty of women. For, women often have no power of disposal over their own strengths and resources - they are esternals. Their labour and income do not belong to them, but to their husbands or families. There is no bank account, no property, no house. "Nothing belongs to them and so they are dependent on others. Women have internalised so much that their survival depends on others, that they do whatever is asked of them deciding nothing on their own. This has become part of the identity and self-image often passed on to the daughters," says Sister Daphne.
Another important building block for the women is the topic of finances - saving was a foreign word for them. In the community in Gujarwadi, however, they dared and started to put aside 50 rupees per member each month. That is about 60 cents. For us, it may be hard to imagine that such a small amount can make a difference - there, however, it can change the lives of the families for the better. This is due to the fact, that the women in self-help groups organise their own credit system. The amounts of money are paid monthly to the internal bank consisting of a lockable box and a treasurer who keeps precise records of receipts and payments. Over time, a considerable amount of money has been accumulated from which the women can obtain micro-credits. This makes it possible for them, for example, to buy a cow or a sewing machine in order to generate a small income.
Improvements on many levels
Each woman has a voice
Progress within the villages can also be seen in many other living conditions. The increase in self-confidence is a great asset: in the past, none of the women would have dared to go to the bank or to the authorities on their own. In addition, the women are becoming more aware of their own rights. One village, for instance, succeeded in enforcing that no girl under the age of 18 may be granted a marriage. Sometimes, there are only small successes, sometimes great achievements. However, one thing remains: all of these issues make a difference for the local women!
Kavita from Shirasgaon – Through the programme, we found the courage to go to the govermental department and get some information. We were not even aware of our rights until then.