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Women work out their problems

Once isolated and forced to stay at home nuns have helped slum-dwellers contribute to their families' well-being

Women work out their problems
Learning to read and write has been part of a process to get women into the workplace
Saji Thomas, Amravati

April 29, 2011

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Women in Matampura Vadale slum and its surroundings in the poverty-stricken Vidarbah region of western state of Maharashtra credit Catholic nuns for their new found confidence in life, after conquering illiteracy and isolation. “Earlier we were forced to stay within the four walls of the huts doing house hold chores. We were not even allowed to interact with people from outside including the neighbors properly," says Rekha Dakh Singh a middle-aged Sikh woman. Even in the midst of abject poverty, the menfolk never allowed their women to work and earn for family fearing social humiliation, says Maya Indole, a social worker with the Divya Sadan Social Centre, the nuns run in the region. But now everything has changed and once illiterate women have now become torch bearers of change in their families and the society as well, she told the Women in the region who now have become strong pillars of their families and Singh welcomes the improvement. “Now the scenario has changed for better,” she said. "We now are not dependent on our menfolk for everything. We have basic literacy, we sent our wards to school, we manage our self help group and have small saving schemes to address our immediate small financial needs and are able to manage our life without any interference from anybody." The real credit for these changes she insists, goes to the Catholic nuns of Sisters of Cross who have worked for more than 35 years to bring about these changes. The congregation established the social service centre way back in 1974 to empower the poor illiterate women in the region through literacy, education to their children and providing health and social awareness programmes, says the director of the centre Sister Lily Thomas. “We have activities almost across the district of Amravati to address the burning social issues, despite the fact that our services are just like a drop in the ocean due to financial crisis and other social problems,” the nun says. She also appealed to people's generosity to contribute to these social causes. "Earlier the people suspected our motives but when we did not give up and continued with our activities despite rejection, they gradually were convinced and now we have no problem in moving around in the area and doing our work," the nun says.
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