(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Development Society, in partnership with AXA Business Services Private Limited, launched the women empowerment project in the slums of Pimpri and Chinchwad, located in the city of Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. The project will directly benefit 2,500 women and children and is aimed at promoting gender equality and empowerment of women through income generation, skill development, health education, free health camps and free educational support classes for the children from marginalized families.
As part of the initiative, 10 self-help groups will be formed to improve the educational status and health of 250 children. Dheeraj Khurana, senior vice-president of AXA and Father Godfrey D`Souza, provincial of Don Bosco Mumbai Province, were present at the inauguration ceremony. A number of beneficiaries were also present including children and their teachers.
“Underprivileged communities typically face issues of unemployment, alcoholism and drug usage. Women and girl children are the victims of such conditions and are deprived of education, dignity and economic independence,” said Khurana at the inaugural ceremony. “At AXA, our mission is to empower people to lead better lives and this is also a guiding principle for our corporate responsibility initiatives. We are very happy to support this initiative and believe this will bring about sustainable change in the lives of women in the Pimpri-Chinchwad slums.”
Salesian missionaries living and working in India and in more than 130 countries around the globe are focused on achieving gender equality though education and workforce development programs targeted specifically for women and girls. These programs strive to empower women and girls by providing opportunities for education and training that leads to livable wage employment.
“Young women and girls face many disadvantages and barriers to accessing education and achieving financial independence despite their huge potential,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “It is very important for girls to attend school and gain an education. Girls that are empowered through education are more often able to achieve financial independence, marry at an older age and make better and healthier choices that affect not only themselves, but their families and communities as well.”
With more than 1.2 billion people, India has the world’s fourth largest economy and according to UNICEF, is home to one-third of the world’s poor. Close to 217 million of India’s poor are children. Although more than 53 million people escaped poverty between 2005 and 2010, most remain vulnerable to falling back below the poverty line.
India’s youth face a lack of educational opportunities due to issues of caste, class and gender. Almost 44 percent of the workforce is illiterate and less than 10 percent of the working-age population has completed a secondary education. In addition, too many secondary school graduates do not have the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s changing job market.
PHOTOS courtesy Don Bosco Development Society
UNICEF – India