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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Empowering the women of Madras
Women in India
Others can be supported by working women

Among the items on the agenda for the World Summit on Sustainable Develoment in Johannesburg is women's rights.

The conference will be calling for the empowerment of women around the world.


She is able to educate her own children

Forum founder Jaya Anarchalum
In the southern Indian city of Madras is an initiative to give greater economic and social rights to the poorest women in society.

In a slum in Mylapore, in the heart of Madras, girls get their water from a pump in an alleyway.

People here live in great poverty.

In this patriarchal society women are particularly disadvantaged, yet many here have benefited in a major way from a locally rooted organisation - the Working Women's Forum.

Credit


The forum has given southern Indian women more economic muscle and a voice they never had before.

This was founded in 1978 to help indebted women whose labour was cheap and disposable as they were not organised.

With a small seed capital, the forum organised women into groups of about 10 and extended credit to them to help their informal business grow.

Selvy, who is 39, now has two businesses.

She makes and sells rice cakes and sells fabric.

The Working Women's Forum now takes in half a million urban and rural women across three southern Indian states.

Spin-offs

Women from cigar rollers to crab sellers, invest their savings with the forum and take loans on a group basis.

Woman in India
The forum is developing women's skills
The group protects its individuals in times of need.

The forum's founder, Doctor Jaya Anarchalum, describes the economic benefits to society.

"The most important thing is, if you take a woman who has been only a vendor or a hawker, [she] is now able to improve upon not only her own trade, but support at least two to three other people.

"She is able to educate her own children."

Emancipation

The forum has also unionised working women and trains them to be more critical of their social status.

And it has an extensive womens' and childrens' health programme.

From small beginnings here in Madras, the Working Women's Forum has given southern Indian women more economic muscle and a voice they never had before.


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See also:

13 Aug 02 | Science/Nature
09 Aug 02 | Politics
06 Aug 02 | Africa
30 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
15 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
24 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
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