Archive for the ‘Reports from the Field’ Category

ARDE Flash – ARDE (Association for Reconciliation and Development through English) (Burundi)

The newsletter in both French and English provides updates on activities organized to gather and exchange on subjects about reconciliation, peace and development.

For the French version click here:

ARDE-FLASH-N∞ 003 Fevrier 2013 version franÁaise

For the English version click here:


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The Peace Project: Peace Education through English and Job Skills in Rural Nicaragua

The Peace Project: Peace Education through English and Job Skills in Rural Nicaragua

The community of Laguna de Apoyo is unique in that it resides at the bottom of a volcanic crater beside a thermally vented lake, but is not unlike other rural Nicaraguan towns in that many of its residents can’t read, many mothers silently suffer from domestic violence/abuse, and many fathers are absent, cheating, or abuse alcohol.  The children here have few educational resources and opportunities, but are bursting with energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity.

In Aug 2011 when 3 idealistic University of Maryland alumni arrived in Laguna de Apoyo and asked the community how they could help, the response was unanimous: teach the children. Parents specifically requested English education, which could help their children eventually secure some of the only stable, well-paying jobs in the community. But as the English teachers politely turned down the rulers offered as disciplinary tools on their first day of class, the project’s focus began to emerge.

One aspect of The Peace Project’s mission is to offer English language instruction and reinforce the local educational efforts in order to expand future job opportunities.  But the project also strives to create a culture of peaceful conflict resolution and positive communication as well as develop a greater awareness and open-mindedness of new ideas and cultures.  Two full-time directors and a consistent flow of excellent volunteers offer English classes, tutoring, computer classes, and afterschool activities to about 50 elementary school children (so far…) who live in the Laguna.

Woven throughout all the activities are opportunities to learn and practice peace with oneself, with others, and with the world around us.  English classes are frequently “interrupted” to peer mediate, intervene in bullying, or discuss littering. The vision is that these students will learn the skills they will need to secure good jobs to support themselves and their families, and the skills they can use to be positive leaders and influences in their families and communities. Find out more at



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Commemoration of Human Rights Day by Peace Channel (India)

Commemoration of Human Rights Day by Peace Channel




Peace Channel family commemorated ‘Human rights Day and had Interfaith Prayer for Peace’ with a theme “Respect for Girl Child Rights” on 8th December 2012 at Holy Cross auditorium Hall, Dimapur.  There were all togather 200 Peace Club members and teachers from different educational institutions in  and around Dimapur, religious leaders and head of the various institutions participated in the program. Invocation prayer was led by Rev. Kari Longchar.  Rev. Fr. CP Anto, Director Peace Channel during his keynote address set the objectives of the meeting and welcomed the Religious leaders, teachers, invitees and the peace club members.  The purpose of coming together is to celebrate the girl child day in view of the Human Rights Day of Celebration. Another objectives were to pray for immediate solution of Naga Issue To commemorate the girl child day and see what is happening to their lives in Nagaland, to facilitate our teacher coordinators and other important persons who have been working for peace, to find out their issues and problems and find recommendations to protect and respect girl children in our state and country. While addressing he said that youth are the most powerful section of the society and can change the whole society into a better place where we can live in Peace and harmony, he called the youth to work together hand in hand to build the society a better place to  live.


Smt. Bokali Mughavi, Director Transnational Humanitarian Advocacy Alliance addressing the event as the resource person that according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) report more than 100 million girl children are working as child labor. She stated that, discrimination on girl child labor depend on different culture with various abuses like abortion of girl fetus, female genital, mutilation, child labor, child trafficking, sexual exploitation, prostitution, child marriage, girl child mostly denied in education, inheritance which are physical, emotional, economical, social abuses. Human rights are universal rights and girl children are to be paid more attention for protection. She too requested everyone to be ready for protection and speak of right. While delivering her speech, she cited an example of Finland and Sweden that are known as peaceful nation because they give lot of empowerment to women like domestic helper/baby sitter who are well regarded and well paid.

The program was chaired by Adahe Neli, Program Manager of Peace Channel and while delivering the message of Christmas Dr. Cho-o, Lecturer of Oriental Theological Seminary said that today the event is commercialized but it should the time for worship, prayer and offer; much more it is a reason for peace. Meanwhile candle light prayer was led by Pastor Tohovi Achumi, Peace Channel Band and students of King David and St. Paul Higher Secondary School, Dimapur presented songs. The program was concluded with vote of thanks and Peace Pledge and Peace Anthem.


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“The progress and Perspective of Peace Education in Armenia” – Women for Development (Armenia)

“The progress and Perspective of Peace Education in Armenia”


During the past several years local and international organizations in partnership with the National Institute of Education of the RA Ministry of Education and Science have been working on integrating the ideas of peace, conflict resolution and tolerance in the curriculum of schools.

The NGO Women for Development / / based in Gyumri Armenia has been implementing the project “Peace and Conflict Resolution Education in Schools” since 2002 with the financial support of EED Germany. The project initiated in schools of Gyumri, and now involves the entire territory of Armenia. The main objective of the project has been formation of the ideas of peace culture and conflict resolution among teachers and schoolchildren.

Initially, Peace Education Centers were established in 16 schools of Shirak region and Gyumri State Pedagogical Institute. The classes in the Centers have been conducted based on the “Peace and Conflict Resolution Education in Schools” methodological handbook (42 lessons), which has been developed in collaboration with the specialists from the National Institute of Education. At that stage, the peace lessons at the Peace Education Centers were conducted by the specialists of the NGO WFD and selective teachers from each school.

Starting from 2011, the “Peace and Conflict Resolution Education in Schools” project is being implemented in 11 provinces throughout Armenia. A modified practical guide for teachers “Conflict Peaceful resolution Education in Schools” (2012) was developed and published based on the methodological handbook, which consists of 2 parts. The first part includes 5 topics: What is conflict? Conflict Escalation; Behavior Styles in Conflict Situations; Conflict Peaceful Resolution Skills; Principles and Methods of Conflict Peaceful Resolution; Summarizing the topic “Conflict Management”- Alternative Teaching Method. The second part is presenting selected most successful examples of Peace Education lessons provided by different teachers from schools of Gyumri (2009-2010).

As for December 2012, the Peace Education lessons will have reached out to more than 200 schools, around 800 class head teachers and more than 16200 schoolchildren of 11-15 ages from 11 provinces of Armenia.


The project is currently being implemented in the provinces with the support of all heads and specialists of the regional branches of the National Institute of Education, who conduct the training of teachers together with WFD specialists, after receiving corresponding training. They also coordinate the process of project integration in 5 schools in each province and will implement on-spot monitoring. The main approach is the following: trained teachers/class heads will conduct conflict resolution education lessons, which will contribute to creation of peaceful environment in their respective classrooms and schools. The teachers receive a teacher’s guidebook and necessary supporting materials, which have been developed by the NGO WFD and the National Institute of Education in order to carry out the peace lessons. The main result anticipated by the end of the project is more than 20% decrease in cases of violence in schools.


Taking into consideration the accomplishments during previous years of the project implementation and cooperation with the regional branches of the National Institute of Education of the Ministry of Education and Science, we are assured that it will be possible to integrate peace education in all about 1500 schools of Armenia in the coming years.



Dr. Gohar Markosyan,

President, NGO Women for Development

LLM, Manushak Aslanyan

Head of Human Rights Department, NGO Women for Development

Shahinyan 6a st, Apt 16 3118 Gyumri, Armenia ,


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Youth need to take responsibility to build peace in Nagaland (India)


While addressing the Peace Rally on 19th May 2012, at DonBosco Hr.Sec.School Wokha Shri.Shaying Sheu, EAC of Wokha exhorted the youth to take responsibility to build peace in the present conflict situation. He appreciated the initiative of Peace Channel reaching out to Wokha at this crucial moment, where everyone is longing for peace and peacefulsettlement of the issues faced by the people of the district. This gatheing certainly  creating awareness and giving the youth a big opportunity to take part in such  programme. We all love peace but there are very few take the responsibility to build peace. Recalling the contribution of Tagore he said that R.Tagore was a peace activist and promoted peace through his literature. Today in our society we lack peace, and there are very few peace builders. Due to the conflict situation prevails in the district the students and the youth can’t concentrate nd study, there is no development. He also elaborated on the types of peace namely the external and internal peace. While expounding on the Biblical perceptive he quoted Mt:5;9, “Blessed are those who make peace they shall be called the children of God”.

The programme was organized by Peace Channel, in collaboration with the North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC). Rev.Fr. C.P.Anto, the Director of Peace Channel in his key note address , quoting Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s famous peom ” Where the Mind Is without Fear” he said we all need to be free from fear. In order to live in peace and harmony we need to reconcile with each other. Reconciliation leads to peace and peace leads to development, growth and prosperity. We all need to go beyond the narrow walls of tribalism to embrace universal brotherhood. He also explained the goal and objectives of the  programme. The goal of the commemoration was to ‘Enhance the awareness on the Contribution of Rabindranath Tagore and empower the youth to appreciate the role of literature and culture in Peace Building and Holistic Development’. The main objective was to provide a platform for budding youngsters to showcase their talent in literary vocation and build our future leaders of our society.

Mr.Yanpothung Ezung, Research Scholar was the guest speaker. In his message he elucidated the contribution of Gurudev Rabindranath  Tagore as a prophet of peace. He was Indias’ peace envoy and outlined a vision of humanism and unity of mankind. Rev.Fr.C.J.Mathew SDB, the principal of the Donbosco Hr.Sec.School in his message he asked the youth to lead a God centered life in order to experience lasting peace in our life.

The winners of Literary Competitions on Recitation of Poem by Tagore’, the first prize was awarded to Ms.Erenbeni of A.G.High School, Second to Bideno of Mt.Carmel School and the third prize was conferred to Mhonbeni L.M.School Wokha respectively. Then writing Poem on ‘Peace’ the first prize was won by Mhabemo T.Lotha from LMS, the second prize was given to Noyingbeni Shiriti of SMB and the third prize was won by Bichamo Kikon D.B.H.S.S. Then  the speech Competition on ‘Rabindranath Tagore – as the Prophet of Peace’, the first prize was won by Senchumbeni from Mt.Carmel, Second prize was given to Khalida Begum of C.M.H.S and the third prize was conferred to Jenifer of A.G.School Wokha. Rev.Fr.Anto Tharakan SDB did the invocation, Mr.Wobenthung Lawrence Project Manager of Peace Channel welcomed the gathering and Mr.Thungdemo was the Master of Ceremony, Ms.Cynthia Lotha Wokha district animator of the movement proposed vote of Thanks . The Cultural Extravaganza, Peace Band Performance and Peace Rally added colour to the event. Over 1000 youth and students from ten schools and organizations participated in the event.

Peace Channel Desk


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Children of the Earth (COE) Togo organizes educational activities for children on culture and peace (April 23-30, 2012)







Date: 23-30 April 2012

Hour: 15h at 17h GMT




THE ACTIVITIES: * Culture * Education


Description of activities


Training Workshop: Samuel AYIVI COE Chapter Leader and Ablam Amouzouvi

COE Member Togo


-How to maintain our culture?

-The Love of cultures

-How through culture we can keep the peace?

-Ambassador of Peace



We have spent quality time with the students including Children and Youth and adults as teachers.

We then reached over 950 students and are very happy because all the courses and demonstrations on culture and peace and love was well conducted and many students, parents who are attending, professors have a commitment to safeguard peace and share with others.

Here are some photos for activities.

More than 5 schools remember our request is to say the same to come organize programs for their students, so we ask you. We ask you to pray for us to find the financial and material means to do so.

Who we find the financial and material resources to organize its activities? We the members of COE-TOGO we make individual contributions. We appeal to all members and friends of the COE to participate in this contribution. If we can have some money we’ll make yet another program with students.

NB: Its moments are a great way to reach many people.

The numbers of ambassador to Togo augment and increase peace in the world.


The work is great in Togo but the worker can sound. I and everyone agree to go and share the messages of peace and conflict resolution where the need is.



Samuel AYIVI

COE Chapter Leader TOGO



Nous avons passé des bons moments avec les étudiants y compris les Enfants et Jeunes et les adultes aussi les professeurs. Nous avons puis touché plus de 950 étudiants et sommes très heureux car  tout les cours et démonstrations sur la paix et l’amour s’est bien dérouler et beaucoup des étudiants, parents qui on assister, professeures se sont engager à sauvegarder la paix et le partager aux autres.

Voici quelque photo des activités.

Plus de 5 écoles demande notre souvient c’est dire de venir organiser les même programmes pour leur étudiants, donc nous vous demandons. Nous vous demandons de prier pour nous à trouver les moyens matériels et financière pour le faire.

Ou nous trouvons les moyens financiers et matériels pour organiser ses activités ?

Nous les membres COE-TOGO  nous faisons des cotisations individuelles. Nous faisons appel a tous les membres et les amis du COE de participer a cette cotisation. Si nous arrivons à avoir un peu d’argent nous allons faire encore d’autre programme  avec  les étudiants.

NB : Ses moments sont de magnifique moyen de toucher beaucoup d’homme.

Les nombres d’ambassadeur de paix augmentent au Togo et dans le monde.



Le travail est grand au Togo mais les ouvrier son peux. Moi et les membres  s’engage à aller et partager les messages de paix et a régler les conflits la où le besoin est.

Samuel AYIVI

COE Chapter Leader TOGO

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Are Our Children and Youth Living in Peace and Free of Fear in Our Region of North East India?

Peace Channel, in collaboration with the North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC), Ministry of Culture, Government of India commemorated 150th Birth Anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore on 12th May 2012, at Great Commission Kids Academy,  Naga United Village Dimapur. While addressing, the gathering , Shri.Som Kamei I.P.S., Director (NEZCC) said that Gurudev. Rabindranath Tagore is still very much relevant to all of us.  In order to build peace and harmony we need to go beyond our narrow thinking of tribalism and nationalism etc., He exhorted the youth to dream big and our ideas should be more creative, unique, innovative and appealing to the public. He also said Gurudev, was a model for our youth today. He proved to the world that we can achieve many things if we are focused and properly guided. He was a scholar, educationist, freedom fighter, writer and painter and above all a humble man. His contribution to Indian Literature was immense, he added. He also thanked Peace Channel for organizing.

Rev.Fr. C.P.Anto, the director of Peace Channel in his key note address asked the participants, quoting Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s famous peom ” Where the Mind Is without Fear” do you think that  our children and youth in our region live in peace and free of fear?  When we compare how peaceful and free the children of other regions of India? What is that thing which deprives our children? He also explained the goal and objectives of the  programme. The goal of the commemoration was to ‘Enhance the awareness on the Contribution of Rabindranath Tagore and empower the youth to appreciate the role of literature and culture in Peace Building and Holistic Development’. The objectives were to Popularize the work of Tagore among the younger generation, enhance the love for literature and culture among the youth, to impart comprehensive information on Tagore and his contributions towards literature, culture and peace, to provide a platform for budding youngsters to showcase their talent in literary vocation. Based on these objectives, ‘Prophet for Peace- Literary & Cultural Conclave’  had various activities like, Literary Competitions on Recitation of Poem by Tagore’, Writing Poem on ‘Peace’ and  Speech Competition on ‘Rabindranath Tagore – as the Prophet of Peace’. Cultural Extravaganza and Peace Band Performance added colour to the event.

The winners of Speech competitions were Ms. Veibezeneuo from St.Paul, secured first position, james Manihru from Livingstone Hr.Sec.School won the second and Petevituo Kedissu from Assisi School got the third position. And then, Ms. Lithungbeni, from Godwin Hr.Sec.School, Sulivi S. Kala: HornBill and Sairing from St.Paul Hr.Sec.School secured first, second and third positions for poem writing competitions respectively. For Poem recitation Kihikali Zhimomi of Livingstone, Felicia of St.Clare and Lamhoi from St.Paul won the First, second and third prizes. Over 450 students from 22 schools participated in the event.

The other speakers were, Mr. Arthur Edwards, the Administrator, Livingstone Hr.Sec.School, Miss. Layse Farias, Student of University of Amsterdam, Holland, Mr. Bimal Ojha Asst. Teascher Pranab Vidyapith School, Mr. Akum Locality Peace leader,  Ms. Anamia Paul, St.Paul Hr.Sec. School. The day’s programme ended with a prayer by Rev.P.Dozo, the proprietor of the Great Commission Kids Academy.

Peace Channel Desk


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Report from Children Of the Earth from Togo (COE-TOGO)

Dear all members and friends,

I am very pleased to present this report still working Children Of the Earth from Togo (COE-TOGO).
Date: 10-27 February 2012
We are based in a village named Kouvé
We shared with them many notions in his fields:

* Environmental protection;
* The peacekeeping
* Love

We then touch more than 25,000 peoples

Kouvé is a canton of the prefecture of Yoto. For a population of 49,000 inhabitants in 14 districts, Kouvé contains three high schools (two high schools and a modern technical college), four colleges, and 18 primary schools. We have two markets, two medical centers. I hope that this message of PEACE, LOVE Music and the environment continues in its midst because as a Hub Leader (Ambassador of Peace), youth Kouvé crave his notions of Peace and Love and environmental protection and HIV / AIDS on their evolving in the studies and the world.
I would heart to enlighten the world and make them real Leader of tomorrow. May the light of education illuminate the night of ignorance (no knowledge).

As you are aware that the illiterate of the third millennium is the one who is ignorant (no knowledge) of the concepts of Peace Love and environment protection.

We need your advice, suggestions especially better working methods.

Togo is a beautiful country full of happiness and future if we commit to share the concepts of Peace and Love, environment, health, and music.

Thank you

Samuel AYIVI
Children Of the Earth Hub Leader Togo.


Je suis très heureux de vous présentez encore un rapport de travaille des enfants de la terre du Togo (COE-TOGO).

Nous sommes partir dans un village nommée Kouvé
Nous avions partagé avec eux plusieurs notions dans ses domaines :

*Protection de l’environnement ;
*Le maintien de la paix
*L’amour envers son prochain.

Nous avons puis toucher plus de 25.000 peuples

KOUVE est un canton de la préfecture de yoto. Pour une population de 49.000 habitants pour 14 quartiers, KOUVE renferme 3 lycées (2 lycées modernes et un lycée technique), 4 collèges, et 18 écoles primaires. Nous avons 2 marchés, 2 centres médicaux. Je souhaite à ce que ce message de Paix et d’environnement continue dans ses milieu car en tant que Hub Leader (Ambassadeur de Paix), les jeunes de KOUVE ont soif de ses notions de paix et d‘environnement et de protection du VIH/SIDA pour leur pleine évolution dans les études et dans le monde.
Je tiens à cœur à éclairer le monde et à faire d’eux de vrai Leader de demain. Que la lumière de l’éducation éclaire la nuit de l’ignorance.

Comme vous n’êtes pas sans savoir que l’analphabète de ce troisième millénaire est celui qui est ignorant des notions de la paix, d’environnement.
Nous avons besoin de vos conseils, suggestion surtout de meilleurs méthodes de travail.
Le Togo est un magnifique pays plein de bonheur et d’avenir si nous engageons à partager les notions de Paix, d’environnement, de santé, Music.

Samuel AYIVI
Children Of the Earth Hub Leader Togo.

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Peace Education the need of the Hour for Holistic Growth

Peace Education the need of the Hour for Holistic Growth

(crossposted from the Nagaland Post at )

One day teachers’ orientation programme was held at Peace Channel Institute, Dimapur on 10th March 2012. The Theme of the seminar was “Peace Education is the Need of the Hour”. Rev. Fr. C.P. Anto, Director of Peace channel animated the session on Peace Education and techniques in making the class room a place of Peace. While addressing the teachers of Dimapur District, said that Peace education may be defined as the process of acquiring the values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills, and behaviors to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment. Thus, the purpose of education is to see man made whole; both in competence and in character. He also elicited from the teachers the various methods of teaching and techniques in managing the class room. Elucidating  a few more  creative methods and techniques of management and altering teacher centered class room in to student centered class  room can positively contribute for making the class room a place of peace and better learning.


Mr.Kishor Das, P.R.O peace Channel presented the concept and activities of Peace Channel. Mr. Minthungo, coordinator Peace Channel briefed the Peace Celebration and other animators led the practical session on Peace Celebration. Mr.Arnold Xavier proposed vote of thanks.  The one day programme ended with an action plan to exploring various methods of effective teaching for slow learners in the class room.



Peace Channel desk

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by Armene Modi

 Paper presented at the Knowledge Globalization Conference: 2012

Pune, India January 2012

Armene Modi
Ashta No Kai



Women are increasingly making more of an impact than men in rural India. The paper will share the initiatives taken by Ashta No Kai, an NGO working in a rural setting to address gender issues and empower women. It will demonstrate how using pro-poor, pro-women strategies can lead to social transformation. Practical and simple poverty alleviation innovations that the NGO has used to overcome the challenges of gender inequity including the Self-Help Group initiative will be elaborated upon. The focus will be to show how these initiatives have impacted women and assisted them in making the transition from passive acceptance of their fate to becoming vocal and active partners in their own development. Finally, suggestions will be offered for a more effective role that industry can play in bringing about sustainable development that is oriented towards the needs of the population being served.


Women’s empowerment, although it still has miles to go, has certainly come a long way. Despite gender equality seeming a far from attainable goal, the winds of change are blowing, slowly but surely, in rural India. Millions of poor illiterate women are spearheading a silent revolution, the Self-Help Group movement, which has proven to be an effective poverty alleviation intervention in enabling marginalized women to become economically independent. Thanks to progressive laws such as the 73rd Amendment, more than one million women are participating in local governance and development in India’s 600,000 villages. Rural women are starting to assert themselves, challenging deep rooted patriarchal practices and beginning to negotiate new roles and opportunities for themselves. With a new-found confidence, marginalized rural women are gaining a voice and a visibility both at home, and in their communities. They are increasingly becoming aware of their rights and demanding not only basic needs but also a share in household and community resources.

Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister realized that “To awaken people it is the woman who must be awakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves”. This was decades before national and international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank put women’s empowerment high on their agendas as the key to sustainable development and poverty alleviation. According to Gita Sen and Caren Grown, it is women “who constitute the majority of poor; the underemployed and the economically and socially disadvantaged in most societies” (Sen and Grown, 1987, p. 25). Amartya Sen’s apt definition of poverty as “capability deprivation” clearly indicates that poverty is not just leading a life of impoverishment, but a very real lack of access to economic and other resources and opportunities for people to improve the quality of their lives (Dreze and Sen 1999, p.11). Poor women also suffer from the additional burdens imposed by gender based hierarchy and subordination. Gender discrimination hence, coupled with illiteracy and a lack of opportunities only drags women deeper into a cycle of poverty and deprivation.

For several decades now, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been playing a pivotal role in linking the needs and concerns of women to all critical issues on local, regional, national and global agendas. They have made significant inroads towards addressing issues of gender inequity while advancing women’s empowerment and human rights. Their efforts at the grassroots level towards poverty alleviation and social justice have provided poor women with effective economic and social empowerment strategies to overcome and combat the gender marginalization they face on a daily basis. Despite the many challenges they have had to face in their efforts to empower women, NGOs have helped bring about an environment of positive change for millions of poor women by enhancing their understanding of the patriarchal system that has exploited them and deprived them of their rights for centuries.

What is Empowerment?

It would be worthwhile here to consider what constitutes empowerment; a key factor in transforming the status and position of women in society to generate long-lasting social change. According to Kabeer, it is “The expansion in people’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them” ( Kabeer 2001).  UNDP’s Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) focuses on political power or decision-making, education and health as the three variables of empowerment. Kishor feels that variables such as education and employment are “enabling factors” or “sources of empowerment” rather than empowerment itself  (Kishor 2000a). Stromquist emphasizes the psychological component to women’s empowerment which “includes the development of feelings that women can act at personal and societal levels to improve their condition as well as the formation of the belief that they can succeed in their change efforts”.  She stresses that the psychological component while important, needs to be strengthened with economic resources (Stromquist 1990 pp 14-15).  Stromquist also urges empowerment programs to take into consideration women’s needs and to go beyond “nutrition, health and family planning and move into consciousness raising and mobilization” (Stromquist 1990 p. 107). It is clear then that empowerment of women involves a host of factors including women’s understanding of their subordinate condition and its root causes; as well as economic opportunity, social equality, and personal rights.

Ashta No Kai (For a Better Tomorrow)  

The paper will now shed light on the initiatives taken by Ashta No Kai (ANK), a small community based grassroots organization working in 10 villages of Pune District to demonstrate how using pro-poor, pro-women strategies can lead to social transformation for rural women. ANK started more than a decade ago with the vision of empowering and improving the quality of life for marginalized women and girls in India’s underdeveloped rural areas. The project’s mission was to meet rural women’s multi-dimensional needs by increasing education, training and health investments for women in rural areas. ANK promoted women’s economic self-reliance by introducing women-friendly credit systems and gave poor rural women access to information, opportunities, and choices to help them make a better world for themselves. 

Project Area:

The project area is spread over 10 drought prone villages and hamlets located in the interior of Shirur Taluka (County) at a distance of 55 to 70 kilometers from Pune along the Pune-Ahmednagar highway, with an approximate population of 15,000 (male: 7663 and female: 7329). The villages, in sharp contrast to the developed industrialized cities on their fringes, are agrarian, economically marginalized, and lack basic infrastructure, such as adequate and clean water supply, electricity, basic health care facilities, and good roads. A low ground water table further affects crop cultivation. A typical village consists of a central cluster of houses, surrounded by many satellite hamlet settlements, which are two to five kilometers away. Accessibility to many hamlets is poor due to lack of transportation and bad roads. At the time that the NGO initiated its work in the villages of Shirur Taluka, the status of women was low. Gender bias, poverty, illiteracy, lack of job opportunities, as well as social traditions and superstitions continued to hamper women’s progress and affect the quality of their lives.

Literacy Program:

According to the World Bank, literacy education is one of the best investments a country can make for its future growth and welfare (United Nations, 1980). Literacy initiatives were therefore given the highest priority when ANK started its work in the villages in 1999. An initial survey conducted in the project area in 1998 indicated that there was a high level of illiteracy among women; 54% as compared with 23% for men. ANK began its literacy campaign by establishing 14 literacy centers in its target villages with approximately twenty-five students in each center. The literacy program had a grassroots approach involving women in the planning and implementation of the project, providing content that was relevant to their lives, and conducting the learning through an interactive and democratic process. By 2001, a study by ANK of 170 learners showed that 37% of women became functionally literate after one year of enrolling in literacy classes. After a few years though, the novelty of ANK’s approach to literacy wore off and fewer women participated in the classes. ANK then developed different approaches to keep the women engaged. Some of these modules included using state-of-the-art computer software to teach literacy, paying daily wages to encourage women to attend class, giving awards to Self Help Groups for 100% literacy among members and setting up “curtain libraries” in women’s homes. The “Each One Teach One” model was also availed of with younger children teaching their mothers. By 2004, 75% of women in the target villages could sign their names, no small achievement for women who had previously never held a pen in their hands.

The promotion and achievement of literacy among adult women in its target villages was the biggest challenge ANK faced since its inception. Despite the fact that the program used a bottom-up approach involving women in the entire process, it failed to reach its targets. ANK did manage to help some women make small strides towards functional, and for some emerging literacy, but it was a struggle. While many women realized the long term benefits of being able to read and write, their need for literacy paled in comparison to the immediate necessities of their daily life. ANK then launched an oral literacy campaign building on the oral tradition of storytelling in villages. The first initiative that provided legal literacy informing women about their rights and familiarizing them with laws concerning them proved to be very effective. The local ILS Law College volunteered the services of their staff and students. Boosted with the success of the program and the large numbers of women who attended, ANK continued to provide oral literacy on many critical issues related to women’s everyday life conducting workshops on gender equity, health, nutrition, and sanitation, among others. These workshops where women gathered away from their daily grind helped to not only provide information about vital issues for the women but also promoted unity and a sense of sharing and solidarity.

Bicycle Bank:

When the project could not make the inroads into literacy for adult women that it had hoped for, ANK decided to shift its focus to the education of the girl child. For the younger generation, education is a vital key to development as it is the educated girl of today who becomes the empowered woman of tomorrow. It has been said “When you educate a man, you educate just one individual, but when you educate a woman, you educate an entire family”. The ripple effect of one educated woman on her family and those around her is far reaching. Providing education and job skills to women can empower them to overcome their poverty and helplessness. An educated woman is more likely to ensure that all her children, including her daughters, receive an education. She will perhaps be not only more attentive to her own family’s health and hygiene, but also to the living conditions in her surrounding neighbourhood. More importantly, the acquiring of some skill will enable her to bring in an additional income to the family.

Many of the girls in ANK’s target villages lived over four to eight kilometers away from the nearest high school, preventing them from continuing their education beyond the 7th standard.  In efforts to curb these drop-out rates, ANK initiated a Bicycle Bank project in 2001 providing girls with bicycles to attend high school. Thanks to the 900 bicycles donated to village girls, the enrollment rate for girls in ANK village high schools is at 100% today compared to the national dropout rate for girls of 41% according to the 2011 census. The Bicycle Bank program proved extremely effective as a revolutionary model in the field of development for the education of the rural girl child. Besides being replicated, it was featured on national and international television programs and in the media. The simple bicycle thus became the wheels of change for village girls, preventing early marriages, arresting dropout rates while encouraging them to stay in school and complete their education.

With the increased enrollment of young girls in high schools, ANK was further able to assist in the campaign for equal education by providing scholarships to 450 girls to date to continue their education beyond high school. Village girls are now venturing into fields like pharmacy, computer applications and electronics and automobile engineering. Moreover, recognizing that one of the other major hurdles for girls going to school was the lack of toilets, ANK quickly stepped in to provide toilets for all its village high schools. Furthermore, with increasing incidences of violence against women, ANK introduced Karate classes for adolescent girls to learn self-defense techniques.

ANK also initiated Kishori Mandals, weekly workshops for adolescent girls to build their self-confidence by giving them inputs in life skills and information on topics they would not readily receive at home or in their school curriculum. The workshops raised awareness about educational, social, health and legal issues and were conducted by empowered grassroots workers who became role models for the girls. Recognizing that women’s empowerment and equality cannot be achieved just through the efforts of women alone, and that it required male support and behavior change among both men and women, this year, the empowerment activities for adolescent girls were extended to include adolescent boys as well. These workshops focus on raising awareness of gender bias and involve boys in a better understanding of their capabilities and roles in promoting a more gender equitable and just society.

Thanks to the Kishori Mandals, more young girls have become aware of laws relating to them and have opposed customs like dowry and early marriages. What is most heartening is a visible increase in their self-confidence and the numbers of young girls opting for higher education in fields that their mothers could never have dreamed of. ANK’s initiatives for the girl child have helped to promote her education, improve her social status, prepare her for better motherhood, and ultimately develop a confident assertive rural girl who can contribute her share and become an active partner in village development.

Dairy Cooperatives:

Since its target villages lacked skill or vocational training facilities as well as job opportunities, ANK initiated many vocational training programs in tailoring, embroidery, candle-making, etc., for the women hoping it would encourage them to establish their own small businesses. The women were not able to sell their products however, mostly due to their poor quality and the lack of a ready market for them. ANK then set up Dairy Cooperatives in two villages to provide rural women with sustainable livelihood opportunities since they already possessed the skills required to make them a success. The Dairy Cooperatives transformed the lives of rural women by enabling them to become economically independent and self-reliant. Rural women took over the dairy management and running of the entire set up on their own, thereby furthering their ownership of the business. This was one more step towards their own empowerment – promoting a higher status for women as managers and income generators for the village economy. Members of the cooperative are proud that they can earn Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 7,000 to add to their monthly income just from the sale of milk.

Self-Help Groups

ANK made it its mission to create and strengthen pathways for women to ignite and sustain their own development within the village through financial empowerment and raising their awareness of gender inequity. It hoped its interventions would enable them to change the vicious cycle of poverty, debt, ill-health and dependency which characterized their lives. In the early stages of ANK’s work, village women felt that the main hindrance to development was access to capital and income-generating activities. With that in mind, ANK began to organize women into the micro-credit model of voluntary savings and loan collectives called Self-Help Groups (SHGs). ANK helped establish over 125 SHGs in its 10 villages. Poor women with no collateral on an individual level were now able to access credit by collectively pooling whatever little savings they had for emergencies or to undertake income-generating activities without having to pay high interest to money lenders. It is important to point out that ANK merely acted as a catalyst in setting up the SHGs which are now run entirely by village women and act as the backbone for the majority of ANK activities. All decisions regarding SHGs were made by the women themselves; from the selection of members and office bearers, the meeting date, monthly saving targets, and loan disbursement, to the amount of interest and the repayment schedule. This enabled poor and illiterate women to have opportunities to make decisions and gain individual strength as part of a group. 

Impact of SHGs:

It would be worthwhile here to mention the positive impact the SHG’s anti-poverty agenda had on women at a personal level. Besides an improvement in the financial status of households, individual members saved on average Rs 15,000-25,000 – a significant amount for rural women. Access to credit enabled women to undertake income generating activities which brought in additional family income ranging from Rs.1,000 to Rs. 3,000 monthly. The increase in income was spent on better nutrition and education of children and on the health care for the family.

One of the major issues women faced in ANK villages was alcoholism, which results in a drain on household finances, impaired health and often, domestic violence. With strength and persistence, village women mobilized to force the closure of illicit liquor dens within their villages. Women gained a new confidence by staging protest rallies, and lobbying the police and district officers to do their job. In January 2004, women of Karanjawane village threatened to go on a hunger strike unless a water project sanctioned years ago was implemented.  To address the dire water shortage in Sone Sanghvi, village women along with their men folk recharged 15 wells and helped build water tanks to promote water harvesting. In Parodi, women in 2006 demanded that a Rs. 3,600,000 road project that was sanctioned in 2000 by the District be built. In September 2006, ANK mobilized women in Khandale village to bring pressure on police officials to register a complaint – which the latter were reluctant to do at first – against two alleged perpetrators who had raped and murdered a young girl in the village.

SHGs clearly demonstrated women’s capacity to organize and bring about meaningful change. In addition to providing a platform for economic empowerment, the SHGs acted as a pivotal place for social justice to occur. Besides giving women easy access to credit and encouraging them to save, women began to participate in issues that affected them. They became active in village affairs, stood for local elections and took collective action to address social and community issues. Village women began to actively participate in Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) and demand their entitlements. They led campaigns against social maladies such as alcoholism, early marriages and infrastructure problems like water shortages, lack of toilets and bad roads.

Empowerment Survey:

An informal survey conducted to assess the level of empowerment the women had achieved based on the empowerment indicators suggested by Hashemi, Schuler and Riley (1996) were revealing. The women were queried on four of the empowerment indicators: mobility, ability to make small and large purchases, involvement in major household decisions and relative freedom from domination within the family. A majority of women reported that prior to the NGO’s presence they were not allowed to leave the four walls of their home except to fetch water, but now had relative freedom to move around in the village. They were still however, not permitted to travel outside its confines without their husband’s consent. They expressed great pride in having control over both their savings as well as the loans they took from their SHGs. Most women were able to make both small and large purchases on their own without needing to consult their husbands. The husbands often consulted their wives when making large purchases as they needed their help to secure loans from their SHGs for them. Women’s involvement in major household decisions was limited. For example, it was men who decided when and whom their daughters would marry. Most women believed that their ability to contribute to the family income and access loans had considerably improved their position in the family. The women also reported that their husbands in general supported their involvement and attendance at ANK programs largely because they felt they were also the beneficiaries.

As is evident from the initiatives described above, when women achieve economic freedom they gain a greater sense of dignity, a greater sense of self, and a vision of the future. Their self-awareness, knowledge, and self-confidence increases, enabling them to participate more fully in community life.  More importantly, there is a positive change in their social status and they command greater respect within their households and extended families. They can resist violence and maltreatment and negotiate a more equitable division of responsibilities in the home. Financial freedom for women also translates into an improved standard of living for families and better education for children, especially girl children. Ultimately, economic empowerment leads not just to the fulfillment of basic needs but also gives women more choices and greater control over their lives.

The initiatives of Ashta No Kai had made a positive difference to the lives of the many women it had touched. The combination of added financial autonomy and increased confidence levels gave rural women a significant voice in their communities. Voices of village women that were once silent and passive now become vocal. ANK assisted women in search of their own voices to overcome their “culture of silence” (Freire 1970), and make the transition from passive acceptance of their fate to becoming vocal and active partners in the development of their communities. These voices continue to grow and be heard as younger generations of women become active partners in their own development, realizing even more, the importance of education, literacy and financial independence as the means to empowerment.

Role of Corporates in Sustainable Development:

What role can Corporates play in promoting sustainable development? At the recent UN campaign for Rio+20 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that “Sustainable development is not a luxury, it is an imperative”. He urged all sectors of society to engage in developing new ideas and approaches to promote a sustainable future of social and economic transformation that could provide basic needs for all. It is in the enlightened self-interest of all, the public as well as the private sector, to participate in nation building by focusing on inclusive growth and addressing in particular, the needs and concerns of people at the bottom of the pyramid. This is vital since despite India’s economic boom, the anticipated trickle-down effect has not come about, and, in fact, the gap between rich and poor keeps increasing.

Corporates can make a positive social impact to sustainable development by playing a lead role in providing innovative solutions to many social challenges. Effective long-term meaningful and sustainable partnerships between Corporates and NGOs can unleash powerful forces for good and fast track India’s social development. Companies can help NGOs develop a business based approach to the management of their projects, and address a variety of community needs by providing funding, resources, manpower, managerial skill and expertise. Corporates can hence create both business and social value; while making profit they can also help to transform lives and address a variety of community needs.

Corporate Social Responsibility:

Although corporate philanthropy is now popularly referred to as  ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR), it has been around for more than a hundred years in India with groups like the Tatas, Birlas etc., having contributed enormously towards social and national development. Gandhi endorsed the concept of “Trusteeship” to reduce economic inequality. He believed that, no matter how much money we have earned, we should regard ourselves as trustees, holding this money for the welfare of all”. While many corporates and multinationals have contributed greatly to social change, most CSR initiatives still lack genuine corporate commitment and a clear focus. They are often nothing more than public relations exercises to enhance the reputation of the company or build its brand rather than genuine attempts at addressing social needs.

The experiences of ANK as documented in this paper can provide some learnings to Corporates implementing their own CSR programs. For programs to work effectively they should be need based and use a bottom up approach. Making people stakeholders and partners in their own development goes a long way in ensuring the success of any social intervention. Moreover, setting a time frame for all projects motivates beneficiaries to become self-reliant and independent and helps to sustain the activities. Programs initiated at the grassroots need ultimately to enable people to take their destiny in their own hands. 


It is important to remind ourselves that issues of gender discrimination and poverty are not problems of one country or another, but global issues which need global solutions. Global resources must be fairly shared so that all people regardless of gender, age, disability, class, caste, religion, nationality or ethnic background can lead a decent life. Some 20% of the world’s 7 billion people cannot continue to consume most of the world’s resources, while millions continue to live in or near poverty – destitute, unemployed, homeless and malnourished.

People have a right to an equitable share in the world’s resources and to make decisions about their own development. The denial of such rights is at the heart of poverty and suffering. Civil society, including corporates and NGOs can, and must play a positive and creative role by partnering with poor people, particularly poor women, to empower them and provide them with opportunities to build lives of human dignity and self-reliance. Investing in poor and marginalized women by helping them to realize their full potential and partnering with them as full and equal participants on all levels is integral to successful economic and social development.


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