There is something very special about these women. The change that has come about in these women is not only apparent in the women themselves, but in their families and the larger community.
Coming from a very traditional community, these women are expected to fulfill traditional gender roles and due to these gender roles, they often are not even allowed to leave their homes.
The CSA staff members have dealt with horror stories of women being confined to their homes. To paint you a picture, the daughter-in-law of the house, Neha, once badly burned herself while she was cooking and should have been taken to a doctor but rather was told to go lay down for a few hours and then get back to her chores. Therefore, for these women to daily leave their homes is a triumph in their fight for their future and freedom.
Empowerment in the community:
Many people ask why we don’t scale this initiative up to engage and empower more women. The Chhoti Si Asha Approach believes in the individual verses the quantity. CSA has empowered many more people, past the women who stitch with us. For example, there are visible differences between the way an earning woman is treated versus one who maintains the house all day.
If CSA had to define empowerment, we would use Manju (pictured left and above). Married at 5 years old and illiterate she fits a very typical example of many women in Janta Colony. But she is the face of change. By not only earning equally to her husband, her three sons also see a woman being respected and being treated as an equal. Manju’s boys see this behavior as normal. The boys assist Manju in the household chores, including sweeping, clothes washing and cooking. The boys have learned skills that most men in this community will never in their life learn. Thus we firmly believe when these boys are married, their wives will be treated with respect and their value as women will be recognized. This is how sustainable change and societal evolution happens. This a change that will effect generations to come in Manju’s family.
Empowerment as Individuals:
Chhoti Si Asha is a peaceful sanctuary for the women, where they are able to escape the slums and use their skills. By leaving the colony everyday to come to work, they have achieved a level of self-confidence that is not usually fostered in women. They now have a purpose outside of cleaning the home and bearing and raising children. The women share stories regularly about how prior to Chhoti Si Asha, they were to scared to leave their homes by themselves to even go to the market. Now they have bank accounts, ride city busses and have been introduced to a world of possibility.
When CSA staff members have previously engaged with women in the colony about trying new things, they often tell us they can’t do it or they don’t do it. But when new ideas are brought up with the CSA women- it’s not a question of we can’t but rather a question of how can we learn?