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Handkranz-Kopie_480pxReflecting 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 our fifth story, this one about how EW member organization Medical Mission Sisters works to help girls and women in India’s Dalit community organize for better education and greater freedom. This work directly relates to fulfilling MDG #2: Achieve Universal Primary Education. The story is from Smita Parmar.

On November 24 three hundred and eighty three children gathered at Swabhiman Bhavan to celebrate the Children’s Day. They were of Dalit Community, (Dalits were formerly known as “untouchable”)  They are economically weak, socially backward and politically voiceless. Prior to the celebration, we spent one and half months’ preparing the children with input as well as practice. Out of these 383 children 113 were from the Musahar (Rat eaters) community. We MMS and the staff focus on the development of the Musahar community. Education until today has not become a priority for them since allmost all the adults are illiterate. MMS have managed to get 23 girls below the age of eighteen years and admitted themin a residential school for Dalit girls run by the Government. Four girls have managed to reach up to 7th standard. It is very important for girls to stay in the hostel lest they will be married off since child marriage is highly prevalent. We conduct two coaching centers for those above six years in one of the three hamlets. It is difficult to get instructors from high castes to teach in Musahar hamlets.

MMS stays in contact with the Musahar hamlets through Self Help Groups (S.H.Gs). There are seven active S.H.Gs of which six are women’s groups. One of our health workers goes around during the day to men (who work in the brick kilns) to get their wages or else the money will be spent for liquor and meat. It is with great hope that we were able to form one men’s group. Musahars, unskilled as they are, work as agricultural laborers. Paddy harvest provides them with the hay that keeps them warm during cold winter days besides the wage in kind they get. The rest of the year they work in the brick kilns. During rainy seasons, and in heavy winter, they quit the work and take out loans from the land / brick kiln owners. These loans are readily available as this is the trap by which these laborers can be turned in to bonded laborers. Our attempt to get them other jobs like security guards failed as they are not free to leave due to their indebtedness .

We entered the Musahar hamlet about eight years ago. Women showed interest in saving the money and we could easily form a SHG . At one time one family could save a pregnant woman who had hepatitis, with the help of the entire money saved in the box. People are generous and cooperative when a matter of life was concerned. As the days went we noticed their box was often empty. Finally the group vanished. One and half years passed. One Musahar man was beaten up by a man of Dusad community. It was at this time MMS intervened to bring justice to the victim. The Dusad who was higher in caste  was punished by the local court and had to pay a penalty to the victim. This was unbelievable and shocking for many. But the unimaginable event brought new courage and confidence to the Musahar community.

When we put were about to put  up a shed for the children’s coaching center, the land owner and his  gang came and agitated over the matter. They were ready to file a police case against MMS. Missionaries are welcome to build a hospital, but not a shed for education; it could be made by the Government (which they know will not easily happen).  The reality is if the Musahar children progressed in studies and got job, there will not be cheap labor available as the case is now.

Even without the shed, classes went on and the children who attend daily coaching have proved their talents and leadership through a variety entertainments, speeches, etc. on 24th Nov.  We continue to give hope to these insecure people and trust in God that one day they also will be able to live in freedom and dignity.

urlReflecting 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 the fourth of such stories about how EW member organization Medical Mission Sisters works with those affected and infected by HIV/ AIDS in India. This work directly relates to fulfilling MDG #6: Combat HIV/ AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases. The story is from Sister Regy Augustine Peringarappilly.

Medical Mission Sisters are involved in the field of health and healing since 1925 with women and children as our special focus. All the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are touched upon by our involvement in 17 countries around the globe, particularly among the people living in poverty. As the UN Representative I had been collecting stories from around the world and here is a story by Sr. Regy on MDG 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Sr. Biya Joseph MMS and I are implementing a project for HIV infected and affected people in Iddukki and Kottayam district S. India. The target population is from two southern states, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.  At present 29 families are in contact and getting benefit under this project.

Due to the social stigma attached to this illness, it was very difficult to contact and get the people together. As an initial step, we conducted a few medical camps along with HIV test for the residence of a tea estate.  We could contact four families with the help of some NGO’S. They narrated their practical difficulties such as inadequate financial resources, inability to do work in the field, not able to pay for medicine, lack of nutritious food etc. As a supportive measure they were provided with nutritious food, and reimbursement of medicine. This has lead to an increase in the number of participants, but they were not ready to give their identity or to mingle with each other. We organized awareness classes promoting, positive attitude towards life and Rights of people living with HIV/AIDS besides counseling.

Consequently during our meetings and discussions they were more open to share their life struggles such as experience of discrimination from family members, in schools and hospitals. The group said that “now we feel that we are respected as human beings”.  Gradually they developed solidarity among themselves and felt the need for coming together and to support each other.

They expressed their interest to have some skill training for income generation program, hence we made use of this opportunity to visit their homes to get to know their real situation. We were very respectful to their family members and neighbors as they do not know about the sickness of the person concerned.  It helped a lot to understand their living situations and build a rapport with them.   Some are widows with their HIV positive children working hard to make both ends meet.  We reached out to help with their requests for help from our small project. At present there are seventeen families getting a small income for their daily maintenance from this scheme and they are physically and mentally more healthy and continue their life journey with hope and self esteem.

To sum up, I would say that stigma and discrimination are an everyday experience of people living with HIV/AIDS.  As an epidemic, AIDS affects not just the individual, but the entire family and the community. It emerged as the most dreaded disease not because of the fact that death is certain, but it is due to the stigma and social exclusion that they suffer most. HIV/AIDS is an epidemic of global population and hence it should be a concern of the entire world to educate, support and above all to include them in the mainstream society.

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.

Ecumenical Women is organizing an orientation, two advocacy dinners and daily worship at CSW58. You can register for the orientation and advocacy dinners by clicking the following button. There are a limited number of tickets and registration ends in early February, so please be sure to register as soon as possible.

Eventbrite - Ecumenical Women @ CSW58

CSW Orientation

When: Saturday, 8 March from 8:00am – 6:00pm (EST)

Where: Church Center for the United Nations
 777 UN Plaza
 New York, NY 10017

Cost: $40.00 per attendee.

Prior registration is required to attend this event.

CSW Orientation consists of worship, discussion of how to do advocacy at the United Nations and time to explore the CSW58 priority theme, “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.” Breakfast, lunch and a copy of our advocacy guide were provided with registration.

A complete schedule for our CSW Orientation is forthcoming, so be sure to check back soon!

Advocacy Dinners

When: Wednesday, 12 March and Wednesday, 19 March from 6:00pm – 8:00pm (EDT)

Where: Church Center for the United Nations
777 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017

Cost: $18.00 per attendee per dinner.

Prior registration is required to attend these events.

Ecumenical Women delegates gathered to eat together, reflect on our experiences and consolidate our advocacy strategies for the days ahead.

Daily Worship

When: Monday, 10 March to Friday, 21 March from 8:00am – 8:30am (EDT)

Where: Church Center for the United Nations
777 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017

Daily worship in the Church Center’s chapel allows us to rally together and worship God as we get ready for the day ahead.

For more information on CSW58, you can visit EW’s CSW58 page here.

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