THE Constitution of India grants men and women equal rights, yet gender disparities remain. Studies show discrimination against women is widely prevalent in all realms be it households, places of work, or elsewhere. Wherever gender inequality exists, women are excluded or disadvantaged in the process of decision-making and in accessing economic and social resources. Over the years, almost every NGO for women and children has been combating discrimination at different levels.
But the Covid-19 pandemic only made matters worse for fighting against discrimination and for equality. It reversed decades of progress India has made in gender equality and amplified existing inequities for women and girls in education, healthcare, social and financial security, and other areas. It also led to a stark increase in domestic violence against girls and women.
According to The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), only 14% of women who reported the abuse they faced, actively sought help. The prevalence of patriarchy, the lack of education and opportunities, as well as low awareness have made thousands of women suffer in silence. Promoting gender equality and helping women claim their rightful place in society have become critical and here are 10 NGOs who are playing a major role in empowering women.
Gram Vikas Trust (GVT) directs its efforts towards child rights, education, health and hygiene, sustainable livelihood, and women empowerment. Since its inception in 2001, GVT has been working with people from marginalised communities within complex socio-political climates, and vulnerable to exploitation.
The Trust strives for integrated development through people’s participation and has developed lasting associations with government, non-government and corporate organisations as well as concerned communities and groups. Currently, it is working in over 200 villages of Bharuch and Narmada districts of Gujarat. GVT is on a mission to create a strong and independent society with equal opportunities and without inequalities and discrimination. It is working to foster a democratic and equitable living environment, where all women have access to essential infrastructure services irrespective of their economic and social status.
The aim of this NGO for women is to empower and uplift rural and deprived communities, enable women, promote artisans through their craft and generate livelihoods. Gramin Vikas Evam Chetan Sansthan (GVCS) was founded in 1998 in Barmer, Rajasthan. It is committed to empowering women artisans by making handicrafts a viable means of home-based employment for financial independence.
GVCS commenced with just 10 members and has now grown to a large-scale organisation that assists more than 22,000 women across 75 villages. A growing network of women artisans engaged in different craft forms has helped GVCS to work on a broad spectrum of rural development activities such as the formation of self-help groups or SHGs, providing fodder for drought-affected cattle, and educational programmes for children and women.
Since its start in 1992, Aarti for Girls has been on a silent crusade against injustice to women and children in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. Operating in a region steeped in poverty and discrimination, this NGO for women has only grown from strength to strength and has impacted over 100,000 women and children across the district.
Over the years Aarti has started Aarti Home, Aarti School, Aarti Education, Lalitha Women’s Centre and Lalitha Advocacy under the aegis of Vijay Foundation Trust. It has also built tremendous partnerships with governmental and non-governmental agencies across the world.
Aarti works to better the cause of the girl children in particular. It shelters abandoned young girls, runs a school offering quality education for children who cannot afford fees, supports the financial independence of women through counselling and training courses, and strives hard to create awareness against gender discrimination.
Milaan Foundation envisions an inclusive and equal world, where every girl has the knowledge, skills, and social environment to pursue her dreams and explore her full potential. The foundation as an NGO for women and girls believes in the power of girls to be leaders; driving intergenerational and systemic change, especially in economically and socially challenged communities, making them inclusive places of opportunity and equality.
Over the last 10 years, Milaan has worked with more than 18,000 children and advocated for safer and more inclusive spaces for them at various state and national platforms. Milaan currently works with over 2,280 adolescent girls led by 114 ‘Girl Icons’ in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. By 2030, Milaan aims to empower 10 million girls across India and build a movement of Girl Leaders with a thriving ecosystem of change-makers and networks.
Founded in 1992, Rajasthan Samgrah Kalyan Sansthan (RSKS) is a grassroots nonprofit organisation focussed on helping marginalised women and girls. The NGO for women promotes empowerment, sustainable livelihood, girls’ education, gender equality, child rights and welfare of the marginalised and deprived sections of the community.
The foundation also strives to solve problems related to agriculture, the environment and water scarcity. This NGO for women and girls has been granted Special Consultative Status (2015) by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.
Swadhar was founded in Mumbai in 1983 to help women in distress irrespective of their caste, religion, community or financial status. In 1998, Swadhar added childcare under its umbrella and became Swadhar IDWC. Apart from addressing women-centric issues, it also began working towards the education, health care and overall development of disadvantaged children with special emphasis on the girl child.
True to its name, Swadhar, is working relentlessly towards creating self-reliant women and children by empowering them with knowledge about their rights and enabling them to lead independent, dignified lives.
Established in 1996, Kalyan Women Welfare Society is a voluntary organisation uplifting communities living in hazardous geographical districts of Rajasthan where there is acute water shortage and poverty. The foundation provides free education, skill development training and employment.
The NGO for women also strives for child rights, legal protection, better health and welfare, availability of clean water, nutritious food in partnership with government and non-government schemes.
Operational since 1998, Vishvodayaa Trust is a charitable organisation that promotes self-reliance and sustainable development in society with a special focus on education and auxiliary contribution in the areas of women empowerment, environment, and holistic health care. Its objectives are to serve the underprivileged and oppressed sections of society, work for the community development and welfare of economically and socially backward sections through education and help the physically and mentally challenged.
The Trust advocates women empowerment through skills training for entrepreneurship development and works closely with government agencies, hospitals, other voluntary and civil society agencies to fulfil its objectives.
Formerly known as Save The Children India, Vipla Foundation is a 33-year-old non-profit committed to preventing exploitation and all forms of discrimination against children and vulnerable women.
It is focussed on health, education, gender equality, minority communities, the differently-abled, child and youth development, skills development and arts and culture. This NGO for women and children has been working towards empowering the less privileged to lead a life of dignity, self-respect and self-reliance.
Kshamata works on rehabilitating and reintegrating human trafficking survivors and protects those who are most vulnerable to the menace, which includes the homeless, minors who are discharged from government homes, and women who have been deserted by their families.
Kshamata’s vision is to have a world free of exploitation. The organisation provides a medium for the deprived to economically and socially integrate with society through a series of interventions on medical care, life skills, education, etc.
Gender equality is critical for holistic development in India. As stark disparities still persist, there is an ardent need for societal and policy initiatives to empower women and create an equitable society.
(The article updated in March 2022)
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Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.