The following post was written by Opportunity International supporter Eric Schade, traveling on our International Women’s Day Insight Trip to India this week. Here, he reflects on the International Women’s Day celebrations he saw in Chennai on day two into his travels.
Female empowerment. That was the theme of today’s International Woman’s Day festival, loud and clear. With inspirational speeches, songs, dances, and theater, hundreds of women of all ages gathered to celebrate their progress toward achieving greater financial independence. Opportunity India CEO Jim Reiff handed out certificates to the highest achieving Trust Groups at the organization. Other entrepreneurs busily sold goods from their booths nearby.
As all the women talked, sang, danced and laughed together, their sense of pride and belonging was evident. It was a powerful display of the impact that Opportunity International has had on the lives of so many Chennai women.
During dinner, local teacher and sage Ms. Padma kept us rapt with her eloquent insights into the many obstacles that confront Indian women today. One of Ms. Padma’s facts that stuck out was that while 75% of all Indian women live in rural areas, only 38% of them attend school. For those that are able to advance to the college level, living conditions are deplorable. A single toilet, for instance, will be shared by over three hundred women. But, Ms. Padma assured us, progress is being made. In the cities, attitudes toward women are rapidly changing as they become better educated, take better jobs and grow their economic power. The same transformation will occur in rural areas as women’s roles are gradually redefined.
Becoming economic contributors to their families and their communities is an important first step. Opportunity’s microloans have and will continue to play an important role in that transformation.
In the video below, a group of female actors finish their hilarious skit with a song of celebration: