Lessons in ‘education of life’ for women, is what Swadhar Institute for Development of Women & Children (IDWC) is focussing on. And, with its partnership with Sakal’s Beauty of Maharashtra pageant, the NGO hopes to leverage its work for women empowerment.
The NGO was founded in 1995, by Prof Meenakshi Apte along with Sulabha Joshi and Suchitra Date, with an objective of empowering women and providing support to children in distress.
During her visit to Sakal Times, Sanjivani Hingne, secretary of Swadhar, spoke about the NGO’s work and its association with the beauty pageant. Hingne says that the pageant can be a tool for women empowerment, especially because the event is looking at finding talent in two-tier cities.
“In smaller cities, young women do not have much exposure to such platforms, except the television. They do not get a chance nor do they think much about being a part of such competitions. At the pageant, the grooming and training that the women will go through, will boost their confidence. Everyone aspires to move to big cities, to explore new opportunities and their newly achieved confidence by being a part of the pageant, will help the women when they step into the big, wide world. That is why we thought it would be great to associate with Sakal Beauty of Maharashtra pageant,” says Hingne.
“We will also be able to spread the word about the NGO in different cities through this event,” she adds.
Swadhar has counseling centres in Pune where they help distressed women with legal services, free of charge. The organisation is also working towards giving medical help to women in need. Hingne also talks about the importance of making women financially independent. Says she, “We have introduced some vocational courses for adolescent girls and young mothers, because many a times, in slums, families prefer to get the girls married young.
Therefore, most young women neither have proper education, nor skills to help them stand on their feet, if their marriage breaks-up. Skill development and vocational training are a must for women to be able to become independent after their husbands abandon them.”
She adds that this issue is also prevalent in middle class and upper middle class societies. “Women do have education but what they lack is ‘education of life’. They are unaware about how to manage their finances or how the family income is used by their husbands. Majority of the women do not have a share in the property that the husbands own. Nor do they have skills to secure a job. Nobody wants to hire a woman in 50s with no work experience,” points out Hingne.
Moving on to children and the challenges involved in looking after them, the social worker, says, “In most of the slums, there are no formal schools. The kids are too young to travel to the places where schools are located. In that scenario, authorities must provide for a transport. Sadly, that doesn’t always happen.
Also, parents are reluctant to send their children to schools located at a distance, because they want them to stay back and fill water (since water tanker come once a day at a fixed time) or baby-sit their younger sibling. We need to solve the root cause of the problem; it’s only then that the issues related to absentia or playing truant in schools, can be solved.”
Sakal Beauty of Maharashtra pageant has a special cause — ‘Educate a girl child’. One of Swadhar’s prominent goal being the overall development of children, especially the girl child, this association becomes all the more meaningful.