The CRS women’s empowerment programme operates at 8 urban and 2 rural locations. CRS provides trainers and material support while the local community organisation is responsible for providing premises where women can meet.
CRS instructors offer year-long courses to girls aged 14 and over. Skills are assessed quarterly and in an end-of-year examination. Financial and business management skills are also taught and all participants are encouraged to set up individual bank accounts. By the end of the course they care equipped to set up their own micro-business.
- Tailoring. This very popular course includes sewing, embroidery and knitting. During the final four-hour evaluation, students need to demonstrate embroidering a flower; hemming, darning, and picot stitch along the edge of cloth; and measuring, cutting and stitching a shirt and a bag. Their portfolios of practical work completed throughout the year are also evaluated.
- Beautician training. During the year-long course, students learn a range of skills including skin care, make-up, waxing, manicure and pedicure, facial treatments, and hair cutting and styling. The final evaluation gives girls three hours to prepare a friend in bridal attire which includes face make-up, sari, jewellery and hair styling. Some students go on to set up small beautician parlours in their communities as a way to earn a living.
- Jewellery, crafts and household items. Bangle-making, candle-making and pot painting are additional training options available to women at different locations. Other session that has been taught is training to make homemade sanitary towels.
Learning via smartphone
Since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit India in 2020, the need for remote learning has become more and more evident. Today, many of the women’s empowerment projects are delivered via smartphone, allowing women to take part wherever they are. The smartphone project has been hugely successful, revolutionising the way CRS delivers its activities.
Self-help groups (SHGs)
There are currently 2 SHGs at Dum Dum and 2 at Pally Mangal. Each group has ten members, who deposit a certain amount of money each month into the group bank account. Members can then apply to the group for loans for their businesses – such as buying a sewing machine or buying some chickens to rear – which are paid off over time. These groups are fully participatory and democratic and have had a tremendous impact in giving control over decision-making and income-generation.
As part of the CRS health programme, women are given sessions on a variety of health and hygiene issues for the benefit of themselves and their family. Topics include safe sanitation and the importance of hand-washing, spotting signs of tuberculosis or breast cancer, ante- and post-natal care, child immunisation, child nutrition and growth monitoring, and government health schemes.
The CRS women’s empowerment programme has made a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of women, giving them a sense of self-confidence and equality as individuals, as well as the skills and resources to be self-sufficient and independent. Your support can help many more women to have a hope and a future.