Emmaus International

To mark International Women’s Day and women’s rights, the representatives of the Emmaus groups in India tell us about the difficulties experienced by women in their country and the work carried out by the Emmaus groups (F.H.F., Kudumbam, Tara Projects, V.C.D.S.) to fight against the discrimination they suffer in order to improve their daily lives.

The situation of women in India

India is a country of extremes. There exists a huge gap between the richest and the poorest due to the unjust system. The majority of people still live in poverty, struggling to meet their daily needs. In spite of the Constitution, where all are equal by law, in reality deeply rooted gender disparity still exists. Women still continue to face challenges to obtain equal rights, well-being and recognition for their cultural and socio-economic specified roles. They are still not considered equal and they continue to be the victims of violence, discrimination, exploitation, trafficking, dowry deaths and harassment at home, in the workplace and in society at large.

Violence against women is a cruel reality in our society. Domestic violence, Eve teasing (sexual harassment) and rapes are common, despite the fact they are illegal. Due to a lack of resources and awareness, cases of such violence, particularly domestic violence, often go unreported. This has a direct negative impact on the physical and mental health of female victims in society.

Gender discrimination is also a major challenge and a depressing reality. There are Constitutional laws against gender discrimination, but there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality. The hard fact is that women in India do not have equal access to autonomy, mobility outside the home and freedom compared to men. In spite of having the same educational degrees, women and men do not earn equal pay for equal work. It is also very difficult for women to get highly recognized roles in the employment sector. Sadly they continue to be considered more as commodities than human beings.

The work of Emmaus groups in India: F.H.F., Kudumbam, Tara Projects, V.C.D.S.

Emmaus groups in India strongly believe in gender equality and working to achieve it. The groups are playing a significant role in fighting against gender disparity through their various actions. The groups’ project activities are impacting the lives of many deserving people, particularly women and children. They have been working for many years to empower women through various programmes, providing women with equal opportunities. Women are involved in activities, whilst receiving support to learn different life skills, develop their self-confidence, and their understanding of their surroundings. In this way, they will live a dignified life, with greater independence and their own identity. Some of the groups are even led by female leaders, creating examples in society.

Emmaus groups are working through the Self-Help Groups (SHGs) at grassroots levels to support women to become economically and socially empowered. Microcredit loans are provided to women to develop their small economic initiatives/enterprises, and move towards self-reliance. Many women are active in Fair Trade as artisans, activists, social workers and are fighting for socio-economic empowerment, particularly gender equality. The groups are also involved in capacity building programmes that help women to be equally acknowledged and recognized in society.

Emmaus groups are also involved in educational and skill development programmes that include self-defence training, awareness about their own self and how to organize themselves. On a regular basis, the groups are engaged in organizing community meetings, focus group discussions, informative workshops, rallies and campaigns focussing on gender issues and women’s rights. These actions have an impact in reducing violence against women and other evils such as child marriage, girls dropping out of education and human trafficking. Legal education is also being provided explaining the key points, the laws on the importance of the protection of women from domestic violence and harassment.

It is important that the member groups of the Emmaus movement continue to fight against poverty, injustice and that they work for female empowerment and gender equality. It is a long process, and it will take time to change the mindset and uproot evil practices such as gender disparity. We have to continue believing strongly in the fight for a just society where all have access to equal opportunities and a dignified life.

Moon & Kamal,
Emmaus India


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