Women’s empowerment is crucial to sustain various community development programmes. It has been observed that attitudinal changes on the part of women have a significant impact on the attitudes of their families and communities. Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF) understands the importance of women power in driving social change. Under its mission of empowering, involving and energizing communities, the Foundation ensures complete involvement of women in the community.
Even in the age of modernization, rural India is witnessing the “secondary” position of women in the society. Despite the fact that women play a crucial role in rural economic development, they are yet to receive their due share and having a fair say in the decision-making process – be it in the household or in the community.
ACF supported women Self Help Groups (SHGs) serve as platforms for women to explore their decision-making ability. Women feel proud and confident when they can utilize money for small and big tasks such as purchasing cattle, building toilet or for their children’s wedding. In several cases, the SHGs are also a boon for helping women set up small enterprises. These groups have supported vegetable and fish farmers transform their work into profitable livelihood options.
ACF supports over 1,300 SHGs and 16,000 women across locations, with cumulative corpus of over Rs.5.3 crore. In addition, there are two Women’s Federations in Kodinar (Gujarat) and Chandrapur (Maharashtra). Today, these groups have gone beyond their simple monthly savings, and built linkages with banks providing technical support to start their own entrepreneurship leading to sustainable livelihoods. These enterprises include dairy development, nurseries, mushroom cultivation, handicrafts, tailoring and food processing.
Pearl Tiwari, Head of Ambuja Cement Foundation, said, “As India witnesses economic progress, there will be a pressing need for enhancing the socio-economic status of women not just in metros but also rural locations across the country. Women empowerment continues to remain a priority area for ACF. The closest indicator of an empowered woman is her social status as a decision-making authority. Gaining financial independence is seen to have a great impact in boosting women’s confidence and decision-making ability.”
ACF has also extended training support for the career growth of young women through the Skill and Entrepreneurship Development Institutes (SEDIs). Female youth enrol themselves in various skill-based training programmes nursing aides, computer hardware and software, and beautician courses offered at SEDI centres. These women, full of vigour with newly-developed confidence and increased like exposure, are now ready to take on every challenge in life.
Women are actively taking up roles of para-professionals and extension workers in various other ACF’s programme. Several women have emerged as role models for others, when they have taken lead as “Sakhis” in our comprehensive healthcare programme, or supported the education programme as “Balmitras”.
ACF also works on the issue of female foeticide by organizing various awareness rallies, campaigns and celebrations in the community on the birth of a girl-child. Skits and role plays educate villagers about social evils like dowry and discrimination, sexual and psychological harassment on special occasions like International Women’s Day.
As more and more women are associating with ACF, the entire programme is set on a path of social evolution. Women are supporting each other and progressing collaboratively.