A Woman's Work Is Never Done
by Major D. Mani Kumari
THE impact on women in the community as they support their families, attempt to re-establish their households and respond to the trauma of loss are important aspects of The Salvation Army’s ministry.
Women, children and the elderly are most vulnerable to any disasters. In many instances, women affected by the tsunami risked having the loss of family and possession followed by the loss of social status. In India people live in close-knit communities and worry greatly about anything that can cause embarrassment or make them lose their social status.
Mrs Selvi was washing in her bathroom when the first wave came and washed away her clothes. When people tried to get her to leave her bathroom she refused because she was naked. The second wave tore through the bathroom and Mrs Selvi lost her life. To her, her social status was more important than her life.
When counselling was offered after the tsunami, some of the women began to open up, sharing their fears and worries. Some of them had nothing to eat but, even with such obvious problems it became clear they were worrying most of all about their husbands’ needs. This attitude is typical and is a good demonstration of why, by helping women, the whole community benefits.
One of the best ways The Salvation Army was able to help women affected by the tsunami was through the setting-up of self-help groups. In the coastal communities of India, 189 self-help groups were commenced to help with a total membership of 2,776 women. Each woman was given 1,000 rupees which they could use to fund a small business (making handicrafts or setting up a market stall, for instance), raising money for their family and boosting the local economy. When they paid the money back, more people could benefit from the funds.
Projects were also put in place to train women so they could develop useful skills such as sewing, candle-making and lotion-making.
Some of these principles can be seen through the Kumar family from Chinakara Agrahara. Their main source of income was selling lime powder, made from seashells. January is usually a good month for selling lime powder but the tsunami at the end of December washed away all the shells on the shore and the family lost its income.
When Mrs Kumar approached The Salvation Army for help she was brought into a self-help group and given a loan. The Salvation Army gave her a water buffalo which provides milk for the family or to sell. She was also allocated a piece of land to grow food which can be eaten by her family or sold to bring in money. With all the support she received, Mrs Kumar was able to fund the education of her son, Gowtham Kumar. He completed his BEd and is now working as a teacher.
Because of the support she received, Mrs Kumar was able to provide for her son, who in turn is teaching the next generation and helping them to make the most of their young lives.
Major D. Mani Kumari is Territorial Women's Development Officer in The Salvation Army's India Central Territory