Today (8th March) is International Women’s Day. It is a day to celebrate the achievements of women all over the world. It is also a day to ask, why are so many women and girls trapped in extreme poverty and living at risk of abuse or trafficking? Why is the female literacy rate in India just 46.4%? How will these women’s rights be recognised? Will they ever realise their human potential?
The Hope Foundation is committed to promoting gender equality throughout Kolkata and has been at the forefront of several initiatives which aim to empower women from below-poverty line families and deprived sectors of society. HOPE strives to provide women with a voice, to break their silence of injustices and discrimination.
Women like 21 year old Purnima are defying the odds through their own determination and a little help from HOPE. See her story below. Every woman like Purnima is changing things for the better.
The HOPE Vocational Training Institute in Kolkata was set up to help distressed and marginalized women. HOPE’s holistic approach means we can also help the children of women attending the Institute, which offers the whole family a chance to break free of the cycle of poverty.
We work with women to help them build sustainable futures and support girls in attending mainstream school.
Our integrated vocational training programme was set up in 2004 to give women a chance to gain skills that enable them earn a livelihood. The unit works with women in poverty; with call girls and with HIV infected mothers, aged 16 to 25 years. This age group is especially targeted as it is a key time of self-discovery and self-development for women. The main trades/skills taught at the Institute are: Knitting, Tailoring, Fabric, Tie and Dye, Embroidery, Bakery, Catering, Computers, Beautician Skills and Photography. The Hope Foundation is especially committed to actively advocating for the rights of women and girls in Calcutta and surrounding rural communities.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says for 2012 International Women’s Day: “There is a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well-being. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world’s rural areas. Rural women and girls — to whom this year’s International Women’s Day is devoted — make up one quarter of the global population, yet routinely figure at the bottom of every economic, social and political indicator, from income and education to health to participation in decision-making.”
Share this news with women and men committed to ending poverty and achieving equality for women. Happy International Women’s Day 2012!
Photo: David Lavery – Woman & Child in Kolkata
Purnima Shah is 21 years old and lives with her parents and four younger siblings in a small rented room in Khidderpore- the heavily populated port area of south-west Kolkata. Purmima’s father is a taxi driver and her mother is a homemaker. Purnima and her two sisters were forced to quit school due to her family’s impoverished circumstances; however her two brothers remained in school. Purnima felt a responsibility to care for the family, but found it difficult to find employment as she had no education.
After admission in HOPE’s Vocational Training Programme, Purnima learnt how to tailor and stitch. Although she was too poor to buy a sewing machine she was determined to continue tailoring after her training. Purnima saved up for a second-hand sewing machine and began her venture to be a tailor. Purnia established her own small local business and earns 800 rupees a month. Purnima is now able to care for her support her family and ensure her sisters go to school, she has also opened her own bank account.