BUILDING THE CAPACITY OF WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES IN INDIA
PROMOTING THE RIGHTS TO HEALTH AND EMPLOYMENT
PROJECT OBJECTIVES AND OVERVIEW
This two-year project has the following objectives:
- To facilitate the economic empowerment of women with disabilities in India, through skills training in information and communications technology and use of micro credit loans under the Indian Government’s Self Help Program (SHG)
- To increase access to health care services by women with disabilities, by providing opportunities for women with disabilities to learn about and advocate for health issues and services
- To influence national health policies related to women with disabilities, through training of women with disabilities in advocacy
The project capitalizes on an existing government program, Swarn Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojna (SGSY), which aims to help those below the poverty line by encouraging them to form small self-help groups (SHGs) of 10 to 17 people and apply to banks for credit and government subsidies. Each SHG member deposits their own money in the bank as part of the SHG revolving fund and draws whenever needed for personal or group activities. Members of the group develop employment skills provided by government agencies or non-government organizations.
Under this scheme, the individuals or the group submits a loan proposal to a Committee composed of members of the Government, bankers and NGOs. Once the loan is approved, the Indian Government transfers a loan of 10,000 rupees (approximately USD 230) into a joint bank account, which can be used to implement entrepreneurial ideas. The loan repayment is 4% per annum. After six months, the individuals or the group can apply for additional funds on an on-going basis. SGSY staff members encourage people to form groups, monitor the groups closely, and support the group representatives in dealings with the banks and with government officials.
Leveraging this micro-credit scheme is at the core of the projects’ five components:
1. Advocacy and leadership training for self-help groups (SHG): This component of the project will provide valuable information on disability, disability rights and leadership skills to the 320 women with disabilities identified in the UNDP survey. In addition, local government employees who assist the SHGs, known as Anganwadi workers, will be invited to the training. All participants in the training will be asked to share information from the training with others in the villages in which they live. The unique approach of training local government employees, not just women with disabilities, aims to facilitate the inclusion of women with disabilities in the community.
SMRC will conduct the training during the first two months of the project. In addition to leadership skills, the training will also focus on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as national disability legislation and entitlements. This awareness raising component is critical since persons with disabilities, particularly women, do not even know that they have legal protection against the discrimination they face, especially in the areas of education and employment.
2. Individual needs assessments and skills training: Half of the women with disabilities in the study group (160) will receive individual counseling to determine their interests and skills and be provided four months of training in relevant information and communications technology skills, based on their level of literacy: The decision to train half of the study group was based on financial costs, staff capacity and the time and attention required to train the segment of this study group with high support needs.
- High literates (20% = 32 women) will receive basic computer skills, including web design skills, and will be asked to work with SMRC in designing and updating an interactive website on women’s health issues as part of the training;
- Medium literates (20% = 32 women) will gain video camera skills, and will be asked to develop short videos to raise awareness of and advocate for disability rights as part of their training;
- Low literates (60% = 96 women) will learn skills to set up booths for mobile phone rental as their low literacy will inhibit their inclusion in the above two groups.
Women will have the liberty to choose the skills they want to learn, taking into consideration education levels and internet connectivity. SMRC will conduct the training in computer skills and mobile phones, and will hire a local consultant to conduct the video camera training. These three skill areas will be the priority, since they have been tried successfully by women’s groups in Nigeria, Uganda, Bangladesh and other parts of India, though never before in programs directed specifically for women with disabilities. If other viable initiatives are suggested during community interactions, SMRC staff will make efforts to provide training in other areas.
3. Access to the micro-credit funding and project implementation: Building on SMRC’s strength in running advocacy and micro-credit campaigns, SMRC will assist women with disabilities in joining existing SHGs, developing their ideas for ICT enterprises and obtaining loans under the Government micro-credit program, a three month process. SMRC has made a commitment to support the women with disabilities for the first year of their livelihood initiatives and will meet with bankers to assist them in the loan process.
The project budget includes the contribution to be paid to the revolving fund (about USD 23 per woman) to become a member of the SHG. Women with disabilities and their families are too poor to be able to pay this nominal sum and are therefore not able to join the SHGs. This amount will be deposited in the bank and used by the women with disabilities to meet emergency expenses such as health, education, etc. Seventy-five percent of equipment costs are included in the project and 25% will be supported through the bank loan. The project allocation for equipment will give the women with disabilities capital on which to obtain bank loans for any additional expenses.
Once the loans are received, the next phase of the project, approximately six months, involves SMRC assisting the women in implementing their projects based on the skills learned. For example, computers with internet capability will be used to set up a cyber café in each village where the participants live. The computers can be rented to the local population on an hourly basis. In addition, internet access would allow the participants in the program to download information on health for dissemination among the group. The interactive website to be created by SMRC staff can also be used as a networking tool among the 32 women with computers across the four States.
The women with video cameras can be hired to film local events such as weddings, religious ceremonies and family celebrations. The cameras can also be used to make short videos to raise awareness of health issues and film discrimination against women with disabilities in government health facilities, so that they can challenge the system with proof. Finally, mobile phones can be used for rental purposes and as a networking tool among women in different villages.
4. Promotion of good health through the internet and documentation: SMRC will manage an interactive website and blog (or message board) to provide a forum for women with disabilities to share health-related information. This website will be developed concurrently with the four-month training, incorporating input and feedback from women with disabilities in the program, and subsequently maintained by a volunteer from the program in collaboration with a SMRC staff member.
As a global network of professionals and advocates in the disability field, RI and its Social and Health Commissions will help provide information on health issues, support the project website and disseminate short videos and other advocacy material made by the women with disabilities.
5. Advocacy for greater health care access: In the second year of this project, SMRC will work with women in the program to advocate for the inclusion of women with disabilities in the Indian Government’s Reproductive Health Care (RCH) program. This part of the project will involve organizing meetings with government delegates and policy makers.