Reaching the Unreached - IndiaOur vision is a world free from poverty, where no child is left behind About RTU Our work News and Stories Contact us Donate Pages Women empowerment As well as bearing the main burden of responsibility for caring for their families and running their households, many women in poor communities in India have to go out to work to support themselves and their dependents. Some are widows who have lost their husbands to illness or injury and are struggling alone to bring up and care for their young children. Often the only work they can find is seasonal labouring, which offers no job security. Our training schemes help women become financially independent and our self-help groups help women to build their confidence, empowering them to become active members of their communities. Learning new skills RTU’s tailoring training gives women from impoverished backgrounds the chance to learn a trade, set up their own businesses, establish stability for their children and develop economic self-reliance. Self-help leading to empowerment Each of the women's Self-Help Groups we support brings together 10 to 20 women from the same village to provide a support network for themselves, their families and their communities. Microfinance If they fall into poverty and struggle to cope, women, especially those who may be struggling to cope alone after being widowed or abandoned, all too frequently fall prey to unscrupulous moneylenders who charge high interest rates. Members of many Self-help Groups contribute small amounts of money to a common fund, which members can draw on in emergencies. Loans are made at very low interest rates, giving women from even the poorest families a safety net when they are in need. Money from the funds is also available on application to fund members' new businesses, helping many women to find a route out of poverty through the spirit of rural enterprise we encourage among the members of the Self- Help Groups. Local leadership Many Self-Help Group members, their confidence boosted by the new skills they have learned, take on decisive leadership roles in their communities. Supported by training and mentoring, with RTU’s encouragement they become involved in making key decisions about important local matters such as water and sanitation, Some become further involved in local politics and are successfully elected to the local Panchayat or other official positions, representing the women in their area and giving them a real voice. Activism Many of the Self-Help groups engage in positive activism to confront and tackle serious social issues, for example, domestic and gender-based violence, underage marriage and child labour, helping to make their communities safer places to live. Maniammal's story Maniammal is 38 years old and lives in Endapuli village near Periyakulam Taluk in Theni District. Maniammal and her husband struggled to find agricultural labouring work out of season. To be able to care for their family, they were forced to borrow from a moneylender, but the high interest rate was punitive and they struggled to repay the debt. RTU visited Maniammal’s village and explained the benefits of forming a women’s Self-Help Group. Maniammal and her friends soon formed the Annai Indira SHG, all the members saving Rs.300 in the communal fund each month. The fund pot grew and Maniammal applied to borrow Rs. 70,000, which she used to take out a one-year lease on 1.5 acres of land with 70 silver cotton trees. With her husband’s help, she harvested the cotton every season. They sold it at a good profit and were soon able to pay off their debts. Maniammal’s business continues to thrive. She has paid off her Self-Help Group loan, bought a cow to provide the family with milk, drilled a bore-well at the family’s house to ensure the household has a supply of clean water, and is able to pay for her children’s education. Thanks to the Annai Indira self-help group and Maniammal’s hard work and determination, her family is happy and financially secure.