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A large gathering of beneficiaries at a program organized by
India, the country on the fast track of growth, has a dubious record of not doing enough to improve the lot of the socially disadvantaged. In many regions in India, widows fall in this socially disadvantaged sector. In the past couple of decades, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have done their bit to bring some positive changes into the lives of people who have been left behind in the country’s economic progress. Yet, not many NGOs have taken up widow rehabilitation as a focus area.
A widow receiving ﬁnancial assistance at ICECD
Gujarat-based International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Career Development (ICECD) is an organization that has been working with women and youth in villages, tribal areas, and urban slums. ICECD runs a program for widows. The focus of ICECD activities has been to empower these communities through small and microenterprise development. Having started its operations in 1986, ICECD has steadily spread its area of operation. It now offers its services to communities across several states in India and in 52 other developing countries. In India, it has so far reached out to over a million people.
“India has over 33 million widows. In 2006, ICECD took up the challenge to socio-economically rehabilitate disadvantaged widows who live the most austere and deprived life. The mortality rate among these widows is shockingly high and they live without any hope or means to support themselves and their families,” says Ms. Hina Shah, director, ICECD. In recognition of the work that the organization has done, PMI India awarded ICECD with the PMI India Community Award during the PMI India Project Management Conference in Mumbai in November 2010.
The approach that the organization has adopted is much beyond welfare. The focus has been to develop the entrepreneurial capabilities of widows to help them successfully run their own small businesses. “The project management model that we devised was such that it effectively dealt with people, tools, and systems. It has led to regular income, increase in purchasing capacity, and independence. These widows now have better decision-making power, better communication, and control and are able to plan and monitor their business. This is an irreversible developmental change that has taken place,” remarks Ms. Shah.
ICECD honors outstanding performers in self-sufficiency programs
The program initially started with a pilot project in 2006, which led to the economic rehabilitation of more than 3,500 rural widows in Gujarat. ICECD launched the project along with the Women and Child Development Department and Social Security Department, Government of Gujarat. As many as 90 percent of the widows rehabilitated started their own small businesses or got linked with skilled employment. They started earning anywhere between Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 25,000 (US$ 30–500) a month.
These women have achieved self-sufﬁciency and sustainability under the Widows Federation that the ICECD project team formulated. The idea was to help them access loans, insurance, children’s education, and other ﬁnancial schemes.
The program has created an investment of Rs. 45 crore (US$ 9 million). Considering that more than 65 percent of these widows are illiterate, this is no small achievement.
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