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Church of North India Social Service Institute, Nagpur, India

Nagpur is a city of approximately 2.9 million inhabitants in the very centre of India. Nagpur is expanding rapidly, but for the poor and uneducated life is hard. The CNI SSI helps villagers overcome poverty, alcoholism and unemployment in many ways but the money from Caring and Sharing is used to help work with women.

In Nagpur around 100,000 women from the slums are employed by families from the upper middle classes as ‘maid servants’. About half of these maids servants are illiterate, but others may have had secondary school education. Many are from the ‘dalit’ (formerly untouchable) class whose families have moved to the towns in search of work. They earn about 4,000 Rupees (£50) per month and their income is essential to their families.

Church of North India

The CNI-SSI has formed an organisation of maid servants with about 3,000 members. Women come together to talk and learn about their legal rights, their treatment, working conditions and health issues. In 2008 a large rally of over 5,000 women took place to demand free education for their children, health services, a pension scheme and a BPL (below poverty line) ration card. This resulted in a Domestic Workers’ Welfare Bill being passed by state legislature granting financial assistance and rights to these workers.

Over 80 Women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs) have also been set up in urban slums and villages and among the ‘rag pickers’ who collect and re-cycle waste. These SHGs make the women more self-reliant and help them to be part of decision making. The women are given training in leadership skills, book keeping, reporting, managerial skills and entrepreneurship development. They are also encouraged to save every month in a savings group. This may be as little as 30 rupees (50p) but it means that money does not have to be borrowed at high interest rates when times are hard.

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