Project: Adarsh Mahila Griha Udyog
Location: Latur District, Maharashtra
Category: Empowerment and Education
Dowries are illegal in India, but the law is ignored in much of rural India. When a dowry is involved in a marriage, the wife’s and the husband’s families agree on a fee (money or property) that the wife’s family pays to the husband’s. This means that material greed can easily be part of the transaction. In addition, the prospective wife is herself considered property and is given from her family to her husband’s.
Traditionally (although this is changing), this means that the wife now “belongs” to her new family and is effectively abandoned by the one that raised her. This can have terrible consequences for the wife. If she or the property that accompanied her disappoints the new family, they feel entitled to “take it out” on her, sometimes violently (Laws and son preference in India: A reality check by Kirti Singh, 2013).
In July 2015, Adarsh Mahila Griha Udyog (AMGU), with a grant from IDS, began a project designed to eliminate marriages arranged with dowries. After just eight months, AMGU could claim success. As of March 25, 2016, thirteen young couples in the project announced marriage plans without dowries, and 95% of the project’s 200 other participants took an oath not to marry with a dowry.
This project was implemented in 20 villages in the economically poor district of Latur Taluka, part of Latur District in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. Ten of the villages received complete interventions (training groups and lectures), while young participants in the other 10 villages attended the lectures only.
The anti-dowry project was managed by AMGU’s female self-help groups (SHGs). Young people in 10 villages (100 females and 100 males) took part in homogeneous-by-gender training groups whose purpose was to learn about the dangerous consequences of marrying with a dowry. Another component of the intervention consisted of lectures by lawyers and government officials about the illegality of dowries as well as visits from, lectures by, and discussion with social workers focusing on the disadvantages and dangers of dowries.
This intervention succeeded so quickly for at least four reasons:
- Interventions were multi-faceted and comprehensive and sought perspective from the client.
- Male groups were exposed to the dangers and undesirable aspects of dowries—this was especially important.
- One of the first young women to reject dowry proposals has turned into a much-respected role model, and many of the village girls want to follow her example.
- AMGU has been working with Latur Taluka villages for 40 years, and self-help groups have been in operation since 2000. SHGs have helped many emerge from poverty and many children to get a better education. AMGU is relied on and trusted, and is therefore influential. When AMGU attempted to influence these young people to reject dowries, they were receptive to the organization’s message and experience.
–2013 IDS annual report
Holistic Empowerment of Women
Adarsha Mahila Griha Udyog (AMGU) works for the holistic empowerment of women across their entire life span. With the help of financial support from IDS, AMGU offers vocational training and organizes social awareness programs about women’s issues, gender sensitization, and adolescence.
Topics such as domestic violence, child marriages, sexual harassment in the workplace, child abuse, and child labor are raised and addressed in women’s self-help groups. Since the program’s inception, AMGU has reached approximately 10,000 women through these groups.
With the help of Mahila Atyachar Niwaran Kendra in Latur, AMGU’s family counseling center addresses cases of atrocities against women. Cases include issues related to dowry, bigamy, and physical and mental torture. So far, 1035 out of 2490 cases have been successfully settled using this approach.
AMGU’s vocational training helps ensure the economic self-reliance of women who are in need and without economic support from other sources. After training, students practice such skills as: constructing bags of jute and leather; painting; creating hand and machine embroidery, ribbon work, and patchwork; and making soap, sauce, and jam. Because women earn their livelihood through their vocational skills, AMGU organizes exhibitions for the women to help them sell their handicrafts.
AMGU participates in a tree-planting program and supports a purified drinking water program. In addition, it established a kitchen garden program; the result was a reduction in cases of anemia because women were growing their own vegetables and including them in their daily diet.
Jidnyasa, a program focusing on life skills for adolescent girls and boys, was implemented by AMGU in the district of Latur. Students learn about adolescence, addictions, sex education, AIDS, and human trafficking. Since the beginning of the program, 5305 students at 38 schools and colleges have participated in Jidnyasa.
–2013 IDS annual report