September 1, 2013 marked the culmination of the Third Milestone of the Women Empowerment (WE) Project. We are pleased to report that the Milestone Event, titled, “The Women Empowerment Project Exhibition,” was a success – well attended by 160 participants (graduates of the WE Project training courses) and their families from each of the eighteen centres, special invited guests and speakers, members of the media, expo patrons, students and staff from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham(Coimbatore and Amritapuri Campuses), as well as the Ammachi Labs team. Participants of the Expo collectively earned over Rs. 60,000 through the Regional Expo, the highest yielding expo to date.
A Re-cap of the Milestone 3 Event
- Mr. Raghuvir, The Hindu Business Editor
- Mr. A.M. Palanisamy, Chairman of Aerospace Materials Pvt. Ltd.
- Mrs. Renukha Meera, CEO of KTR Jewelry
- Mr. M. Alagirisamy, Chartered Accountant
- Mr. Anand Selva Kessari, All-India Head of Citibank
- Mr. Arul Senthil Kumar, Director of Aerospace Materials Pvt. Ltd.
Raghuvir Srinivasan – Business Editor, The Hindu
“Women often have low paid, low status jobs, and that this has been a traditional norm in India –even when they work on par with men. This problem shows that women have been suppressed by men, but men are not entirely at fault –women need to take steps forward to improve their life situations. Ammachi Labs is providing economic empowerment and a chance at financial independence for rural and tribal women. Programs like Ammachi labs should be encouraged, we should support them, so that the people who need can benefit from this.”
A. M. Palanisamy - Chairman of the Aerospace Materials Private Limited
“The beauty and strength of women, their sense of service never waits or expects anything in return. Women have to be leaders in their work and in their family. Whatever, you do, never give up!”
Renuka Meera, CEO and Company Secretary for KTR Jewelry Ltd.
“Are women not empowered?” Women have potential but there is a weakness, and it is this weakness that is being addressed by the work that Ammachi Labs is doing. If women come forward, people will say that she has a bad character. Ignore such words.”Addressing the graduates in the audience, Mrs. Meera encouragingly said, “I hope that each one of you becomes a Woman Entrepreneur like me!”
Thiru M. Alagiriswamy, Chartered Accountant
“It is really moving to see the efforts that everyone from Ammachi Labs is putting towards this Women Empowerment project. Ammachi Labs is a wonderful program. You can learn how to help yourself, empower yourself. The strength is within you. You need to learn how to develop it.”
Appreciation of the Participants of the 18 WE Centres
Mrs. Renuka Meera presented a token of recognition to a representative from each of the 18 of the Women Empowerment Centres, to honour the achievements of all of the participants of the WE Project gathered.
This Quarter’s Best Centre and Best Center Runner Up Award/Trophy
The Runner-Up Winner for the Best Centre was awarded to the Madurai Centre: a center which has had the lowest attrition rate: 3 percent (where the national average attrition rate is 30 percent). They have proactively held LEE initiatives in the community, and are spreading awareness against misuse of plastics and plastic waste.
The Paripally Centre was recognized as the Best Centre. From infrastructure to number of students, they have performed consistently over the last 6 months, and 16 graduates of the program have formed a business group.
In the afternoon, the Expo Opened for Business!. Open Forum Panel Discussion on Women Empowerment Challenges and Best Practices was also held. The Forum was moderated by Professor Prashant of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. Each speaker was allowed 10 minutes to speak and took one question from the audience.
Dr. Meera Krishna, Gynecologist, and Project Coordinator for the Siruvani Branch of Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development Dr. Krishna focused her speech on the importance of health in families including proper sanitation, healthy foods, and first aid. “A mother is more important than the doctor. Her knowledge matters. Women need to be like walking encyclopedias. Women can teach others and make use of learning.”
One of the participants from the Evoor Centre asked: “There are persistent fevers in our area, what should we do?”
Dr. Meera answered: “That’s because people don’t wash their hands frequently. Once somebody is in your house that has fever, and they use the mobile, the infection passes around through these objects. All of this needs to be wiped and sanitized. Hands should be washed frequently, toilets also. Incubation period is 10 days so that is why it keeps going and coming back.”
Advocate M.R. Kaliselvi, a civil and criminal lawyer at the Coimbatore Court who is also the Secretary for the Human Rights Association in Coimbatore.
Advocate Kaliselvi focused her presentation on the importance of self confidence and speaking up for oneself. She reminded the audience that there are many laws that protect women, but they will never be useful if women remain silent in the face of abuse.
“You have to be proud to be born as a woman. To be born as a woman is great. In today’s world there are a lot of laws that help women, but even then women are very silent – they don’t go. Why don’t women open up? Because they are shy. It is very important to get the accused punished. And only the law can do it.”
Question from the Meppadi Centre:
“I come from a tribal hamlet. Girls between 12-16 are getting pregnant. If the girls are going to the court, they are being ostracized by the community. What can we do?”
Answer, Advocate M.R. Kaliselvi:
“You have to first go to the hospital, get all of the tests done, then go to the police station. The first victim from tribal communities will always have a very difficult time, but by going through it, they will make it easier for the next victims that follow. You have to be brave, and you have to just go forward and do it. That’s the only way to get out of it. And definitely the punishment will be severe for the perpetrator.”
Ms. Syeda Sarfraz, Head Mistress of PERKS School, Coimbatore
Freedom was the topic Headmistress Sarfraz spoke on, “You have to know the meaning of freedom. It is not what you wear; it is what you desire to do in life. Whatever you desire to do, you should be very brave and come forward, and bring it out to the world. That is freedom, whatever it may be. The biggest mistake is fear. This is why people do not come forward. Fear blinds freedom. Fearing what people would say is the wrong notion. We have to believe in ourselves. Once we believe in ourselves, then we have to change, then automatically that fear will go.”
Question from Paripally Centre: “Society does not accept us. Even if we want to prove ourselves.”
Answer, Ms. Syeda Sarfraz:
“Just be positive. Positive thinking is always the best. Start thinking that society will accept you and definitely everything will change. This is a good platform where you can learn the real meaning of freedom. Fear is sin, fear is negative, and fear is evil. According to the law of attraction, the universe is ready to give you everything you ask, so what you have to do is ask for good things.”
Ms. D N Nithya,a management graduate from Anna University and currently the Marketing Manager of the Women Development Corporation
“First a compliment: the jewelry is well done. So the support that the organization has given you has been strong, that is why your products look beautiful and that you are motivated to come out with products like this. The products are well designed, well packed and displayed beautifully. Only if you have patience can you do all of this. The first success is being able to make something - your own product. Then from there you have to move forward. An MBA student wants to be an entrepreneur, but you – you are already an entrepreneur because you have made and sold products!”
Brahmacharini Nirupamamrita Chaitanya, in charge of the Coimbatore branch of Mata Amritanandamayi Math.
“How do we empower women through spirituality? What is preventing women empowerment? Our mind is preventing empowerment. Spiritual thoughts and literature were developed by women. In the medieval period women were suppressed and prevented from development. Amma gave an example during the Gandhi King Award – Geneva speech – A baby elephant is tied up with a small chain, and would try several times to escape, but could not. Later, after it grows up and becomes big, it is still tied using the same small chain. Although it can now easily break free, it believes that it is still unable because it was conditioned early on. That is how we women are. We have been tied up because we are not developing ourselves.”
Cultural Programs - LEE Performances
The evening of the Women Empowerment Project Exhibition closed with LEE performances from participants of the WE centre. The performances were based on socially relevant issues and discussions shared from the course during the LEE sessions. All of the performances were written, performed and directed by graduates of the WE Centres.
The Adimali Centre performed a drama on Child Marriage – the causes and consequences. A graduate from the Madurai Centre performed a classical dance themed around empowerment of women throughout history.
The graduates of the Trivandram and Changanasseri Centres teamed up to perform a powerful drama exposing the insincerity of politicians that campaign during elections. The characters close the drama by calling everyone to action to fight towards true freedom and empowerment of women.
The youngest graduates of the Ettimadai Centre performed a dance drama that depicted the ruin of traditional customs and culture in Tribal areas due to the rush towards modernization.
September 12, 2013