Female Empowerment in India
Danielle Chiel is an Australian philanthropist who founded The Artisan Nation in 2020. This is the second organization that Chiel has founded. Additionally, she strives to improve female empowerment in India. Chiel started knitting at the age of 10. She realized that she could teach her craft to women and subsequently help improve their lives.

The Artisan Nation

The Artisan Nation is an organization working in India. This organization defines itself as a “nation that is not bound by geography, language or culture.” Rather, it is one that is united “by passion, creativity and talent.” Furthermore, the Artisan Nation has one unifying goal to increase the health and wellness of women and people in the villages the organization works in. It accomplishes this in four ways:

  1. Providing face masks for the women and their families.
  2. Delivering fresh drinking water to villages.
  3. Helping the villages receive more balanced foods in local stores.
  4. Offering medical assistance such as workouts, dietitians, psychologists and blood tests.

The Artisan Nation also strives to establish financial independence for women by providing consistent work, smartphones, lessons on how to use the phones and financial literacy courses.

The organization currently supports five villages in Southern India. However, Chiel hopes to reach more in the future. Each village needs $10,000 to support the workers and provide “balanced” lives for everyone in the village. While companies can get involved by cooperating as members of the Artisan Nation, Chiel encourages individuals to get involved as well. Donating just $10 can help fund a village.

KOCO

Chiel first created the organization Knit One Change One (KOCO) to improve female empowerment in India. It employs women in Tamil Nadu, India and provides them with classes in English, mathematics and knitting. These women hand-knit garments for 12 brands from various countries around the world. Since these jobs offer full-time employment, KOCO gives these women the opportunity to be financially independent and support their families. KOCO employed 200 women in 2019, but Chiel hopes that the organization will eventually employ 40,000 women.

Qiaoxifu in China

While Chiel fosters female empowerment in India and poverty reduction with her programs, other initiatives are using textile work to do the same. China’s program called Qiaoxifu has employed over 120,000 impoverished women in the textile, tourism and e-commerce sectors. In one sewing factory in the Henan Province, the workers make about $440 a month. Whether it is in Chiel’s organizations or the Qiaoxifu program, these initiatives help women become more financially independent, empowered and able to support their families.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Female leaders in India
In 2020, Priya Periyasmy became the leader of her village council in Tamil Nadu, a South Indian state that 68 million people populated. Despite gender quota laws in village council elections, female leaders in India are the vast minority and women must fight to do their jobs in a hostile work environment. Additionally, women who run for office often face sexual harassment and slanderous attacks. Following Periyasmy’s brave example, 15 female village council leaders in Tamil Nadu state have filed complaints about discrimination in the past six months.

Village Councilwomen Fight Discrimination

Periyasmy tolerated daily annoyances, with other council members not greeting her and asking her to sit on the floor during meetings. She initially ignored the discrimination, but the abuse she faced interfered with her ability to work. The panchayat vice-president regularly threatened her and once attacked her for sitting on a chair at work. Periyasmy went on strike and organized a sit-in protest with her husband. She and 15 other Dalit women in the same situation are demanding action under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Dalit female leaders in India face heightened discrimination. They belong to the lowest caste in India’s social hierarchy.

In another village in Tamil Nadu called Attupakan, V. Sasikumar quit his factory job to support his mother when she became the first female Dalit village council president. After other members stopped her from talking at meetings and hoisting the flag on Independence Day, she asked the Madras High Court to protect her family.

Sasikumar points out the daily wage earner status of his parents. After the struggle of getting into a leading position, his mother now faces discrimination. Other council members would not allow her to do her job. Still, she has the full support of her family.

India reserves half of each state’s village council posts for women, resulting in the election of 1 million female village councilors. However, proposals for similar legislation for state and federal elections exist for 20 years already. The bills did not pass yet. The bipartisan Girls LEAD Act challenges this, increasing global female participation in democracy, human rights and governance.

Girls LEAD Act

About 132 million girls between 6-17 years old are not enrolled in school and only 24% of all national parliamentarians are women, which are two highly connected problems. Women largely have underrepresentation in politics, allowing men to sway important decisions, many of which only women. Through U.S. foreign assistance initiatives, the Girls LEAD Act identifies and addresses barriers to female political participation, providing support for civil society organizations that women lead. The act ensures that each foreign organization engages girls under 18, introducing them to political leadership early.

Promoting girls’ education and political engagement will reduce violence against women and transform more societies into democracies. Women’s leadership supports democracy through cooperation between parties and the understanding of citizens’ needs. According to research, female inclusion in peace negotiations decreases corruption. Additionally, the likelihood of childhood marriage will decrease by 5% for each year of a girl’s continued secondary schooling.

Normalizing women’s leadership in politics will break the stigma and negative cultural attitudes behind it, which is the root of the bigotry that Periyasmy faces. Passing the Girls LEAD Act would protect marginalized politicians, including the 16 female leaders in India who actively fight discrimination.

– Rebecca Pomerantz
Photo: Flickr