The Widows Movement

 

In the process of empowering the members of the micro-credit self-help groups, a movement was launched under the banner ‘Movement for the Livelihood Rights of Widows & Deserted Women’. The movement had its birth at the International Women’s Day Conventions organized in March 2007.

The members of the Movement proposed that the following issues should be addressed by the Indian Government: (1) social ostracism of widows, (2) lack of legal protection of the rights of widows, (3) the social and cultural prejudices against widows such as they being looked down as (a) ‘public sex objects’, (b) ‘women who bring ill-omen’ (c) ‘women to be looked at with sympathy’, and (d) ‘women who have no right to live a dignified life’, and (4) livelihood concerns.

Within two years, the movement picked up momentum so quickly that in the 2008 International Women’s Day celebrations, the leaders of the movement gained confidence to shoulder the entire responsibility of organizing rallies and conventions. Moving a step further, toward the end of the conventions, they were emboldened to pass the following resolutions, which obviously had political resonance:

“We demand the Government a) to come out with a law as that of ‘SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act’ to protect widows from verbal and physical abuse, b) to evolve a Welfare Board to look into the problems of widows, c) to provide job opportunities to youth who come forward to marry widows, and d) to take care of the education of widows’ children living below the poverty line”. 

The demands, affixed with signatures of the movement leaders, were duly sent to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Minister of Social Welfare, Minister for Rural Development and Administration and the local District Collector.

Addressing Livelihood Needs

Micro-credit self-help groups for widows and deserted women have evolved in 100 different villages. So far, 1500 members have registered their names in these groups.

 

Bank accounts have been opened for each group separately with the aim of promoting saving habits and availing loans provided by the banks.

 

Economic efforts are extended to promote generating activities such as rearing goats and cows, running petty shops, or selling fish.

 

Information regarding the welfare schemes of the Government meant for widows and deserted women are gathered and passed to the target poulation. Further, assistance is provided to avail those welfare schemes.

 

A possibility for the evolution of a co-operative society is explored in order to ensure steady income to widows and deserted women.

Skill Training & Empowerment of Youth

Kalangarai has been paying special attention to youth since its inception, as they are the immediate hope of the tsunami-affected families. Having identified Skill training as the best tool to channel the potential of the youth constructively, Kalangarai offered a number of skill training courses with varying duration, ranging from 3 months to one year. To this end, Kalangarai established a community college of its own in Nagapattinam on 12th Sept. 2005 with the motto “Skills to Youth - Light to the Least’, and named it St. Joseph’s Community College. Since its inception, 242 young men and 203 young women numbering a total of 445 students have completed training at the St. Joseph. of beneficiaries year-wise are given below:

Educational and Motivational Programs and Leadership Training to Children

Kalangarai runs 35 evening study centres in 35 different villages benefiting 1300 children. This activity forms the base for all other activities of Kalangarai related to children. Almost all the study centres are located in Dalit hamlets and the beneficiaries are primarily the children of widows and deserted (abandoned) women. The objectives of these centres are to motivate the children to pursue their schooling without any interruption, to boost their self-esteem by unearthing their hidden talents, to inculcate values, and to help them become aware of their rights.

Every year during summer, 10-day camps (residential programs) are organized for the children studying in the evening study centres. 

Lastly, students identified by the teachers of evening study centres and by the leaders of widows’ groups are helped financially to pursue their ongoing studies. 

Activities

Number

Evening Study Centres

35

Area of operation

4 Taluks (Vedharanyam, Nagapattinam, Tharngambadi & Seerkali)

 

Total number of children being catered

1300

Total number of Teachers

35

Programs conducted for the Children of the study centres during the past one year

 

a)     Three day training for the children of widows & Deserted women

3

b)     Summer Camps (7 days each)

2

c)      Children’s day Celebrations (each one is a day long program)

4

d)     Teachers’ Monthly meetings

12

 

 

 

Welcome to Kalangarai!

Friends of Kalangarai is a newly formed non-profit organization in the U.S. that supports the community-based programs of Kalangarai. These programs include micro-credit self-help groups, skills training, children’s educational programs, and a community college. More than 1000 widowed and abandoned women and their families participate in these programs.

 

Friends is currently raising funds for the educational programs for the children and young adults. The “How to Help” page provides information on how you can make a difference in the lives of these children and young people.

 

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