Most uneducated women in rural India often have very little opportunity to enhance their earnings, as they lack key skills that would otherwise have enabled them to boost their income. Recognizing the untapped potential of these women, the Essar Foundation has taken up a skills development and enterprise project for rural women.
The Foundation encourages rural women to earn alternate and additional income through self-help groups (SHGs). In fact, it recently organized a ‘mela’ (fair) at Dabuna in India’s eastern state of Odisha, which led to the setting up of more than 25 SHGs in the region. Similarly activities have been undertaken in the state of Chhattisgarh as well.
Today, about 30 SHGs, formed with the help of the Essar Foundation, are operational in Odisha and Gujarat, where the group has its operations. The Foundation also provides the women necessary skills training, helping them not only in establishing SHGs, but also managing and building on them to increase their earnings potential.
It also links enterprising women with microfinance institutions, thus giving budding entrepreneurs crucial financial support that might not be otherwise available to them. Indeed, the Essar Foundation is driving social change in rural areas by empowering women through education and training.
Recognizing the pivotal role women play in the development and progress of society, the Essar Foundation has identified women's empowerment as one of its six focus areas. The program aims to enable women to manage their monetary, physical and intellectual needs.
As a consequence, it aims to raise their self-esteem and encourage a sense of security. The Foundation undertakes initiatives focused on health, education, nutrition and financial management for women living in the rural areas near the Group's operations. The activities also encourage beneficiaries to access government services designed for women and children.
An area of key concern is with respect to women’s reproductive health. It is estimated that every seven minutes, a woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth complications in India. This converts into a significant maternal mortality rate of 301 deaths for every 100,000 live births (source: UNICEF).
Women living in rural areas often suffer from reproductive health problems due to a plethora of socio-cultural and biological reasons. Unequal access to resources, lack of awareness, illiteracy and low decision-making authority are just some of the contributing factors.
The Essar Foundation seeks to better this worrisome scenario by reaching out to women in the reproductive age group. The project creates awareness and provides women with the necessary assistance during and after pregnancy, enabling them to prevent pregnancy-related complications.
The project includes reproductive health camps, immunization camps, doctors' training, referral transport to tertiary care units, obstetric care and training for auxiliary nurses and midwives. So far more than 5,000 women have benefited from camps for care for expecting mothers and other reproductive and child healthcare initiatives.
The program aims at making women aware of the reproductive and child health care practices and engaging them in participatory workshops. All the more so, as involving women in pre, peri and post natal care and making them aware of the rights to welfare and nutrition as planned by the government will make future generation strong and healthy.
|The 3E framework|
The Essar Foundation seeks to positively impact the lives of all who come in contact with the Group's operations. The 3E framework is a way of focusing efforts and resources.
Within that framework – covering Entrepreneurship, Environment and Education – six long- standing programs exist. They focus on education, health, women's empowerment, livelihood, infrastructure and environment.