India (MNN) – Women in India are calling for equality. On the first day of 2019, 5 million women in Kerala formed a line covering the length of this southern state. Their mantra: a call to end violence against the women who try to enter the Sabarimala temple. However, this event is a symptom of something bigger. It signals a deep yearning for an India rich in hope, justice, and compassion.
Women Stand for Equality
India Partner’s Donna Glass believes the event was a statement. It showed women with the confidence to stand up for their rights. Just as dominos fall into place one after another, courage spreads as one woman stands up, others often follow.
“I think it was a [385-mile] wall of women? How significant that would have to be by being able to connect with other women. You don’t feel quite so isolated, and so maybe it’s easier to stand up. But, I wonder [about] the women who first had the idea to even start this, to make this happen, to start organizing it. The courage that those women must have had to be able to say ‘We need to stand up and we need to do it together’,” Glass says.
Women in India face a multitude of challenges and inequality. For example, if a family can only afford to educate a limited number of children, males will often be educated while the female children will not. In this context, a grown woman is left with few skills to translate into any career other than a proper house-wife. This becomes dangerous in the cases of widowhood.
Challenges of Being Female
There is a stigma against widows and marrying widows in India. However, the same feelings are not expressed towards widowers. Men are in the clear to remarry, but a woman is on her own. This means a woman who has lost her husband, is often without community and without an income. Due to little or no education, widows have little chance of doing more with their lives than surviving. India Partners is trying to change this. Through its widow sponsorship program, India Partners is showing widows compassion while offering hope.
“There are some government programs, but it’s not enough really to thrive. What they might get is enough to survive. But the addition of having a sponsorship, that gives them a little bit more each month to help meet all their expenses and hopefully to thrive,” Glass says.
India Partners Helps Women Thrive
India Partners also has an economic development program which assists women in building small businesses. In India, this can look like selling vegetables alongside a village street or creating flower garlands to sell, too.
“There will be people that are set up in a space that they have kind of blocked off for themselves along the side of the road, where they will lay out mats or blankets or they will lay out vegetables and they will sell them or they might have flowers,” Glass explains.
Flower garlands are common for people when they dress up or for visitors. They are also a very ceremonious experience.
“They’re absolutely beautiful, but you got to have somebody that makes those. You could have that as a business along the side of a road. We have the opportunity for people to help a woman start a business,” Glass says.
Tailoring School Program
For women in rural areas, India Partners has a tailoring school program. After six months of training, women are equipped to sew basic clothes such as blouses or children’s dresses. Women are also taught how to sew the underskirt worn beneath a sari.
When the women graduate from the tailoring program, they are presented with a treadle sewing machine. These pedal operated machines are ideal for areas where electricity is intermittent. Plus, these machines allow women to work from their own homes, giving them the entrepreneurial freedom to work and take care of their children simultaneously.
“You’d be surprised how fast some of the women can get those machines going to make that needle move up and down,” Glass notes.
The widow sponsorship program and the economic development program are just some of the ways India Partners is helping women. Even earning just $2-3 USD a day can help women stand on their own or supplement their family income so they can thrive, not just survive. Will you get behind their work?
“Until the whole country starts respecting women and holding them as equal, I think that the full potential of India will not be realized unless that happens,” Glass says.
“Every little step that can be made so that women’s self-confidence is built up so that they could learn to stand on their own feet, and maybe unite together [is important]. But first, you have to give women a chance to realize their own potential and then give them the confidence to maybe work with others to help them realize that they could do more.”
India has an online gift catalog featuring the different ways you can help a woman realize her potential while being offered hope, compassion, and justice. Will you give?
“If you have a passion for helping a widow, then you know, perhaps a widow sponsorship is where your heart is leading you. We would love to work with you and you can do it all through our website,” Glass says.
Header photo courtesy of India Partners.