Breaking free

Published : Apr 25, 2008 00:00 IST

AT the office of Khabar Lahariya.-COURTESY: NIRANTAR

AT the office of Khabar Lahariya.-COURTESY: NIRANTAR

Small initiatives by two womens collectives effect big changes in the lives of marginalised women.

THE National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2001, while setting out its agenda for securing equal rights of women, acknowledges the role played by the womens movement and a widespread network of non-governmental organisations, which have strong grassroots presence and deep insight into womens concerns, in providing inspiring initiatives for the empowerment of women.

Although the policy is clear, no positive action has been forthcoming from government agencies. Two well-meaning NGOs, Delhi-based Nirantar, a centre for empowering women through education, set up in 1993, and the Mumbai-based Stree Shakti Kendra, promoters of a taxi service run by women, have shown the way in not only empowering women but making them face the mens world boldly. They have brought together women belonging to the poorer sections of society and marginalised communities, and helped them make a living. The spirit behind their initiatives is to not only income generation for women but also asset creation.

In the two backward districts of Chitrakoot and Banda in southern Uttar Pradesh, Nirantar provided education and training to eight unlettered Bundeli-speaking women and assisted them to start a newspaper called Khabar Lahariya. The NGO regularly conducts workshops for them. Inputs on current affairs and issues such as right to food, child abuse and rape are provided by activists and social workers.

In Mumbai, Stree Shakti Kendra has brought women out of the confines of their homes to steer deftly passengers through the citys chaotic traffic. The women are both chalak (driver) and malak (owner) of the cabs.

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