Reflecting the CSW58 priority theme of “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) for women and girls,” over the coming months Ecumenical Women will be posting stories about our individual member organizations’ efforts to implement the MDGs. What follows is a story about the Awareness Generation Program for Rural and Poor Women run by the Medical Mission Sisters, and EW member organization, a program that strongly relates to MDG #5: Improve Maternal Health. The story was originally written by Joan Chunkapura.

On January 2, 2013, the Awareness Generation Program for Rural and Poor Women began at camp Koombanmala, Kerala, India, with twenty two women. After a prayer and distribution of the New Year’s cake, class began. Many Medical Mission Sisters participated in giving input and leading discussions.

Rosamma George, an experienced nurse who holds a Master’s degree in psychology, dealt with the concept of health and the different components of health. She gave specific attention to women’s health. In discussing pregnancy she also talked about saving the girl child and female feticide.

MMS1Regy Peringarappilly, a practicing lawyer and social worker, explained the causes of human trafficking, such as poverty, dowry, migration, unemployment, and overpopulation. She gave input on different laws and on increasing awareness that trafficking might be happening. She explained different ways that sexual harassment of women takes place and discussed female infanticide, sex selective abortions, and gender sensitization. Regy also gave input on social action. She started her class with the incident of the Delhi gang rape and the response of society. She said that most of the women are not interested in social action because many are not socially oriented enough and not ready to take risks. Another one of her topics was the Dowry Prohibition Act. She informed the participants that asking for dowry and giving dowry is punishable by law. She presented the statistics of dowry deaths in recent years in India. She explained that child marriage is punishable under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. A girl needs to complete eighteen years and a boy complete twenty-one years to get married.

Biya Joseph, a social worker and a counselor, gave a class on responsible parenting. She emphasized that the responsibility of parents is not only for providing food, shelter and academic education, but also for forming responsible citizens. Being a responsible parent means not only caring for a child’s well-being, health and safety, but also giving guidance and direction that will influence children for the rest of their lives. Biya gave input on rape and its punishment, divorce, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, sexual harassment at the work place, indecent representation of women, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. In talking on marital disputes she named as the common causes: sex, money, raising the kids, in-laws, divergent ideas, adjustments, and housework. Happy family life needs good communication, freedom, loyalty and shared responsibility.

Lilly Isaac Vathalloor, an environmentalist, gave input on women and economy. She highlighted income-generation programs that can be done by women and taught a zero budgeting way of cultivation in which women can take initiative. After eight days at the camp the participants said in their evaluation that they were energized, more aware of women and the law. They went away ready to share what they learned and to implement new skills. They felt proud to be women in India today.