Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham begins two-year, UNDEF project that trains women to become Champions of Change in sanitation and community development.

Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s newly established Center for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment has announced its first major project set to launch in February, 2017: a two year, pan-India initiative jointly funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) called the “Women Empowerment: Community Sanitation through Democratic Participation” (WE:CSDP) project. In line with the Government of India’s commitment to improving sanitation and rural development, as well as the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the project aims to empower at least 5,000 women in rural communities across India to champion sanitation and community development. These women will become leaders who transform their village into a healthier, more resilient community able to meet the increasing challenges facing rural India. A key initiative in this transformation is the pledge to make their village “Open Defecation Free” through awareness campaigns and collaboration with the Swacch Bharat Abhayan initiative to construct toilets.

Advancing from the ground-breaking WE:Sanitation Project (2014-2016) led by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s AMMACHI Labs, where women in villages across India were trained to build and maintain their own toilets and promote their proper use, this project expands the sanitation initiative to include a stronger democratic focus. Participants will be supported in forming Advocacy Self-help Groups (ASHGs), creating a platform for democratic engagement with local governments, and a building a network of support for other women. These ASHGs will receive intensive training in relevant skills via Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s globally recognized cVET method of skill development, proven effective in the successful WE Project from 2012-2014. The participants in this project will initiate a community-led, sanitation campaign to mobilize one woman per household in their villages, eventually affecting their entire community. One of the major endeavors of the project will be to host a National Development Workshop at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala, where participants from the villages will work alongside top national and international figures to develop policy recommendations to further improve the health and development in India’s villages.

The United Nations Democracy Fund is very selective in choosing projects to advance and support democracy. In 2014, the then UNDP Resident Representative and United Nations Resident Coordinator in India, Ms. Lise Grande voiced her praises, “AMMACHI Labs has the most creative way of empowering women. Of all of the projects which the UN funds around the world, this is the one dearest to our heart. It’s the one we are most proud of. And it’s the one that we intend to take to the rest of the world so that they can learn from what you have achieved.”

The project will operate in 21 states in India, in villages where Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and its parent organization, the M.A. Math have previously been providing humanitarian aid. The official launch of the project is scheduled for February 18th, during the Train the Trainer workshop at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham Amritapuri Campus. 

The Center for Gender Equality and Empowerment, also the UNESCO Chair for India, is a research focused academic center for promoting gender equality and fostering women’s empowerment with a special focus on technology and other innovative methods. The UNESCO Chair at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham will focus on identifying vulnerabilities and potential solutions for women in India along six major verticals. Visit here for more information.

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