- by N. Anand, The Hindu dated September 13, 2010
The Hindu Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large, Global Women's Issues, interacting with Working Women's Forum/ICNW members at a meeting in Chennai on Sunday. Photo: K. Pichumani
Hearing about the success stories of Self-Help Groups and Working Women's Forum (India), Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large, Global Women's Issue, flew down to Chennai and asked the women members at the grass-root level to narrate their experiences.
During her nearly two-hour stay at the Forum and the Indian Co-operative Network for Women, she admired the products made by women members, interacted with many of them, addressed a gathering of around 500 members, and witnessed a skit on 'discrimination of women, female infanticide, domestic violence and eve teasing.'
Muniyammal, a weaver from Kancheepuram, said that she was not allowed to leave home or speak to outsiders. However, things changed after she joined the forum. She started earning well and her sons were now pursuing higher studies. She is a full fledged member of the marketing and weaver society. Sheela, a Forum staff, explained the uses of the cell phone on conveying information.
Talking to The Hindu, Ms. Verveer said: "This is my first visit to Chennai. I am thrilled and excited. Here's a great story that world should know. I have learnt from them how SHGs can make a difference. It is a lifetime experience and I will cherish it for a long time. I will give the feedback to my government and we have much to learn from each other."
Addressing the members, she said they were the talented lot. Their lives have been transformed due to the timely credit and opportunity provided to them through micro finance and SHGs. They have also contributed to economy's growth, supported education and also improved the living conditions.
Jaya Arunachalam, president of the Forum, said that discussions were in progress with the Registrar of Banaras Hindu University and Dean of the Students A.R. Tripathi to set up an outfit to spread education among the poor children particularly among the minorities.