Mothers groups boost women's stature
May 20, 2010
Lourdu Mary, left, and Susheela, second from right, have been
able to start their own businesses.
Nowhere is the wisdom of mothers more apparent than in small mothers groups. The concept of CFCA mothers groups originated in the Hyderabad, India, project and has spread to projects in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Mexico and Africa.
CFCA mothers groups in Hyderabad are a bellwether for the future of the sponsorship program. Hyderabad Project Coordinator Suresh Singareddy, who has worked with the mothers groups since their inception 11 years ago, is a strong advocate for the groups because he has witnessed how women in CFCA communities have been able to contribute to their families’ livelihood and, in the process, develop their talents and enhance their self-esteem.
“India is a country that has 5,000 years of cultural history and has been traditionally a patriarchal, male-dominated society,” he said. “A woman’s freedom was never beyond her home.”
The self-directed nature of the groups provides opportunities for mothers to generate ideas and act on them. Mothers define their families’ greatest needs, such as educational support, medical assistance, or seed money for a small business, and organize to meet those needs with guidance and support from the CFCA project. As a result, the stature of women in CFCA communities has been elevated.
“Though the women’s participation was seen with some prejudice in the initial years, men have accepted it well now,” Singareddy said. “Women are able to share the responsibility of the family along with them.”
This sharing of responsibility enables both partners in the household to contribute to the well-being of the family and results in a strong, stable family unit. Strong, stable families are
at the core of a stable society.
“When there is peace in the family, there will be peace in the world,” Singareddy said.
Transforming women into entrepreneurs
The St. Anthony mothers group was formed in 2005 by mothers of CFCA sponsored children in the Emjala Parish subproject in Hyderabad. The following are examples of how, through the wisdom of mothers, the group’s members have been able to use their talents to help their families.
Lourdu Mary wanted to contribute to the support of her household. One of her children has a serious disability. The group members encouraged Lourdu Mary to use her sewing and embroidery talent in a sari business. The group loaned her 32,000 rupees ($705) over three years. Lourdu Mary’s business exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“She sells some of the best saris in the area,” Singareddy said.
Lourdu Mary said the group gave her confidence and recognized her talents. “I feel so happy that I am able to take care of my son with a disability and also provide for most other needs of my family without having to depend entirely on my husband,” she said.
Susheela had always encouraged other members of the group in their own livelihood programs and admired their hard work and success. In 2009, she took the initiative to start her own jewelry business.
“All women love jewelry, so I knew if it was affordable, it would be easy to sell,” Susheela said.
The idea was well received by the other mothers and they, in turn, encouraged Susheela to move forward.
Her first sale was a success. She sold all of her inventory in two weeks.
“This gave me confidence and there was no looking back,” Susheela said. “I now earn at least 2,000 rupees ($45) a month.”