A bitter part about rural India is filled up with stories of oppression, gender bias and social neglect faced by women. Yet this year, more than any other time before, it seems that society is on the brink of change. While the women of the world were gearing up to fight against their malaise, women hailing from the small city of Hospet were shattering their own glass ceiling. This 8th of March, Don Bosco Hospet organized its 13th annual Women’s Day Parade in hopes that rural and urban activism will make the world a better place.
Women’s Day was first observed as early as 1909 in New York. It’s beautiful that we – as a society – still continue the tradition, and it’s even more inspiring that small cities like Hospet pave the way on a global scale! More than 300 women gathered in the town center to parade the streets of Hospet with cheers, songs, banners and clamors of empowerment, only to set base at Don Bosco Hospet and continue giving voice to their sentiments on various social issues. What stood out this year was the topic of entrepreneurship.
The fact that the major source of economy for Hospet is agriculture, has been the root of many societal concerns that women face in the region (and many other rural areas across India). According to one report by the National Mission for Empowerment of Women, 80% of women who are employed in rural areas work in agricultural activities. What is worse, female hourly wage rates in agriculture vary from 50 to 75% of male rates – a grave reflection of a worldwide predicament. Traditional obstacles like mobility, education and the inability to interact with the market still exist. However, as we’ve seen and heard during the Women’s Day celebrations, a few Hopset women groups are breaking the mold with the help of Don Bosco’s initiative called: Sustained Income for Rural Women through Entrepreneurial Activities and Social Empowerment. Where women are provided with the space, are given the attention and offered the needed education in order to develop their skills, discover their interest and potentially own a business by themselves or together with other like-minded women. The network has started in 2015 by director Fr Lawrence, as a continuation of a program commenced 10 years’ prior dedicated to empowering women through literacy, income-generation classes, awareness classes on governmental acts, loan opportunities, marriage rights and evening tuition classes focused in slum areas. Since 2005, they have helped more than 2000 women and have created no les than 178 self help groups. An incredible feat!
Echoing this priority, this International women’s Day Don Bosco Hospet recognized the important role of women and rejoiced the stories of their success. Not only were they offered a nameplate, but they were offered a platform to grow, achieve true greatness, and further integrate other women as active agents in transformation.