«Published Annually Vol. 6, No. 1 ISBN 978-0-979-7593-3-8 CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS Sawyer School of Business, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts ...»
ANK made it its mission to create and strengthen pathways for women to ignite and sustain their own development within the village through financial empowerment and raising their awareness of gender inequity. It hoped its interventions would enable them to change the vicious cycle of poverty, debt, ill-health and dependency which characterized their lives. In the early stages of ANK’s work, village women felt that the main hindrance to development was access to capital and income-generating activities. With that in mind, ANK began to organize women into the micro-credit model of voluntary savings and loan collectives called Self-Help Groups (SHGs). ANK helped establish over 125 SHGs in its 10 villages. Poor women with no collateral on an individual level were now able to access credit by collectively pooling whatever little savings they had for emergencies or to undertake income-generating activities without having to pay high interest to money lenders. It is important to point out that ANK merely acted as a catalyst in setting up the SHGs which are now run entirely by village women and act as the backbone for the majority of ANK activities. All decisions regarding SHGs were made by the women themselves; from the selection of members and office bearers, the meeting date, monthly saving targets, and loan disbursement, to the amount of interest and the repayment schedule.
Impact of SHGs
It would be worthwhile here to mention the positive impact the SHG’s anti-poverty agenda had on women at a personal level.
Besides an improvement in the financial status of households, individual members saved on average Rs 15,000-25,000 - a significant amount for rural women. Access to credit enabled women to undertake income generating activities which brought in additional family income ranging from Rs.1,000 to Rs. 3,000 monthly. The increase in income was spent on better nutrition and education of children and on the health care for the family.
One of the major issues women faced in ANK villages was alcoholism, which results in a drain on household finances, impaired health and often, domestic violence. With strength and persistence, village women mobilized to force the closure of illicit liquor dens within their villages. Women gained a new confidence by staging protest rallies, and lobbying the police and district officers to do their job. In January 2004, women of Karanjawane village threatened to go on a hunger strike unless a water project sanctioned years ago was implemented. To address the dire water shortage in Sone Sanghvi, village women along with their men folk recharged 15 wells and helped build water tanks to promote water harvesting. In Parodi, women in 2006 demanded that a Rs. 3,600,000 road project that was sanctioned in 2000 by the District be built. In September 2006, ANK mobilized women in Khandale village to bring pressure on police officials to register a complaint - which the latter were reluctant to do at first - against two alleged perpetrators who had raped and murdered a young girl in the village.
SHGs clearly demonstrated women's capacity to organize and bring about meaningful change. In addition to providing a platform for economic empowerment, the SHGs acted as a pivotal place for social justice to occur. Besides giving women easy access to credit and encouraging them to save, women began to participate in issues that affected them. They became active in village affairs, stood for local elections and took collective action to address social and community issues. Village women began to actively participate in Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) and demand their entitlements. They led campaigns against social maladies such as alcoholism, early marriages and infrastructure problems like water shortages, lack of toilets and bad roads.
An informal survey conducted to assess the level of empowerment the women had achieved based on the empowerment indicators suggested by Hashemi, Schuler and Riley (1996) were revealing. The women were queried on four of the empowerment indicators: mobility, ability to make small and large purchases, involvement in major household decisions and relative freedom from domination within the family. A majority of women reported that prior to the NGO’s presence they were not allowed to leave the four walls of their home except to fetch water, but now had relative freedom to move around in the
Conference papers © Knowledge Globalization Institute, Pune, India, 2012
village. They were still however, not permitted to travel outside its confines without their husband’s consent. They expressed great pride in having control over both their savings as well as the loans they took from their SHGs. Most women were able to make both small and large purchases on their own without needing to consult their husbands. The husbands often consulted their wives when making large purchases as they needed their help to secure loans from their SHGs for them. Women’s involvement in major household decisions was limited. For example, it was men who decided when and whom their daughters would marry. Most women believed that their ability to contribute to the family income and access loans had considerably improved their position in the family. The women also reported that their husbands in general supported their involvement and attendance at ANK programs largely because they felt they were also the beneficiaries.
As is evident from the initiatives described above, when women achieve economic freedom they gain a greater sense of dignity, a greater sense of self, and a vision of the future. Their self-awareness, knowledge, and self-confidence increases, enabling them to participate more fully in community life. More importantly, there is a positive change in their social status and they command greater respect within their households and extended families. They can resist violence and maltreatment and negotiate a more equitable division of responsibilities in the home. Financial freedom for women also translates into an improved standard of living for families and better education for children, especially girl children. Ultimately, economic empowerment leads not just to the fulfillment of basic needs but also gives women more choices and greater control over their lives.
The initiatives of Ashta No Kai had made a positive difference to the lives of the many women it had touched. The combination of added financial autonomy and increased confidence levels gave rural women a significant voice in their communities. Voices of village women that were once silent and passive now become vocal. ANK assisted women in search of their own voices to overcome their “culture of silence” (Freire 1970), and make the transition from passive acceptance of their fate to becoming vocal and active partners in the development of their communities. These voices continue to grow and be heard as younger generations of women become active partners in their own development, realizing even more, the importance of education, literacy and financial independence as the means to empowerment.
Role of Corporates in Sustainable Development
What role can Corporates play in promoting sustainable development? At the recent UN campaign for Rio+20 SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon emphasized that "Sustainable development is not a luxury, it is an imperative". He urged all sectors of society to engage in developing new ideas and approaches to promote a sustainable future of social and economic transformation that could provide basic needs for all. It is in the enlightened self-interest of all, the public as well as the private sector, to participate in nation building by focusing on inclusive growth and addressing in particular, the needs and concerns of people at the bottom of the pyramid. This is vital since despite India’s economic boom, the anticipated trickle-down effect has not come about, and, in fact, the gap between rich and poor keeps increasing.
Corporates can make a positive social impact to sustainable development by playing a lead role in providing innovative solutions to many social challenges. Effective long-term meaningful and sustainable partnerships between Corporates and NGOs can unleash powerful forces for good and fast track India’s social development. Companies can help NGOs develop a business based approach to the management of their projects, and address a variety of community needs by providing funding, resources, manpower, managerial skill and expertise. Corporates can hence create both business and social value; while making profit they can also help to transform lives and address a variety of community needs.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Although corporate philanthropy is now popularly referred to as ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR), it has been around for more than a hundred years in India with groups like the Tatas, Birlas etc., having contributed enormously towards social and national development. Gandhi endorsed the concept of “Trusteeship” to reduce economic inequality. He believed that, “no matter how much money we have earned, we should regard ourselves as trustees, holding this money for the welfare of all”.
While many corporates and multinationals have contributed greatly to social change, most CSR initiatives still lack genuine corporate commitment and a clear focus. They are often nothing more than public relations exercises to enhance the reputation of the company or build its brand rather than genuine attempts at addressing social needs.
The experiences of ANK as documented in this paper can provide some learnings to Corporates implementing their own CSR programs. For programs to work effectively they should be need based and use a bottom up approach. Making people stakeholders and partners in their own development goes a long way in ensuring the success of any social intervention.
Conference papers © Knowledge Globalization Institute, Pune, India, 2012 Moreover, setting a time frame for all projects motivates beneficiaries to become self-reliant and independent and helps to sustain the activities. Programs initiated at the grassroots need ultimately to enable people to take their destiny in their own hands.
It is important to remind ourselves that issues of gender discrimination and poverty are not problems of one country or another, but global issues which need global solutions. Global resources must be fairly shared so that all people regardless of gender, age, disability, class, caste, religion, nationality or ethnic background can lead a decent life. Some 20% of the world’s 7 billion people cannot continue to consume most of the world’s resources, while millions continue to live in or near poverty destitute, unemployed, homeless and malnourished.
People have a right to an equitable share in the world’s resources and to make decisions about their own development. The denial of such rights is at the heart of poverty and suffering. Civil society, including corporates and NGOs can, and must play a positive and creative role by partnering with poor people, particularly poor women, to empower them and provide them with opportunities to build lives of human dignity and self-reliance. Investing in poor and marginalized women by helping them to realize their full potential and partnering with them as full and equal participants on all levels is integral to successful economic and social development.
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Purpose – Cell phone manufacturers and marketers must take into account customers' awareness and appreciation of the benefits of green technology at the time of its purchase and investigate how green marketing strategies can provide competitive advantage. The purpose of this paper is to determine how cell phone firms can benefit from green marketing and what pitfalls there are to avoid.
Design/methodology/approach – Based on a review of green marketing literature, particularly cell phone the paper outlines five conceptual factors associated with perceived greenness of cell phone as a product. It proposes the importance of green marketing in scenario of cut throat competition and issues that firms should consider when they use green marketing.
Findings – Customers' green values should be well understood while planning marketing strategy for a cell phone. Green marketing arguments should be communicated to customers in a coherent and truthful way, to avoid customer scepticism.
Research limitations/implications – The paper calls for an increased awareness of the way to utilize proactive green marketing by cell phone marketers.. Supporting empirical evidence is still needed from future studies.