In 1999 when a joint Canadian International Development Agency-Shastri Institute project took her to some isolated forest communities in the southern Indian state of Karnataka Dr. R. Indira found villages that were all but cut off from the outside world. The women residents of these places were just as isolated.
“Many were not used to participating in public,” Dr. Indira recalls. “We tried to make women see they needed to participate and to ask questions.” To do this, Dr. Indira, a professor of sociology and director of the International Centre at the University of Mysore, helped establish a women’s self-help group.
Over the course of three years, Dr. Indira saw many changes. “Even the idea of women and men sitting together was a big deal at first,” she says. But that eventually became accepted, leading to bigger changes. “Even state representatives were saying ‘This is the first time we are seeing so many women come out of their houses to participate in public events.’”
During a follow-up project funded by Shastri in 2003 Dr. Indira and her team looked at expanding the reach of the self-help groups, many of which had been formed as savings or microfinance groups. “We wanted to look at them as centres around which women could rally to deal with larger issues of rural development,” Dr. Indira says.
Under this second project, a community hall with a computer room, TV room and library was established in one village. A second computer centre soon followed in a building alongside a main highway. Today, Dr. Indira says that all manner of people—students, doctors, state workers—are using these facilities.
A theatre troupe that deals with issues like alcoholism and the importance of education was also founded. Other lasting impacts include a comprehensive map of all the infrastructure in the district and a manual to guide people in establishing and running self-help groups.
For Dr. Indira the most valuable lasting impact is her relationship with the women themselves. “They still call me sometimes and ask me if I can come discuss issues with them,” she says. Whatever the results of these discussions the self-help groups have a benefit in themselves. “They get the women mobile, they get out to see others and share their experiences,” Dr. Indira says. Of course, the groups also ensure that when a woman speaks in the forest everyone hears.More Profiles
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Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, India Office is organizing International Conference on
“Engaging Canada and India:
Perspectives on Sustainability”at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on 11 – 12 May, 2017
National conference on ‘Peace and Harmony: India and Canada,’ organised by the UGC Area Study Centre for Canadian Studies, University of Kerala, to celebrate the silver jubilee of the Centre for Canadian Studies,on 17-18 February 2017.
An interesting read in the International journal of the history of sport (IJHS) by our Shastri’s fellow Dr. Carey Watt.
Call for papers: National Conference on Corporate Laws, March 23-24, 2017, National Law University, Delhi
On November 28, 2016, the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute in partnership with NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad organized the 1st Indo – Canadian conference on “Entrepreneurial Universities: The Future of Indian Universities” at the NALSAR , University of Law, Hyderabad.News Archive
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