International firm to help local SHGs CHENNAI: The United States and India are planning an initiative to train women to be leaders in a bid to promote democracy at the local level, said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Delivering a speech at the Working Women's Forum here on Wednesday, Clinton said both countries were establishing a regional training programme at the Asian University for Women to highlight the success of the panchayat programme and train women to be local leaders. The US Secretary of State also announced that Goldman Sachs, a global financial company, would support a training programme through the Indian School of Business to help SHGs take businesses from the villagelevel to cities and from countries to the world.

Hailing Working Women's Forum president Jaya Arunachalam for the growth of an 800women membership in 1978 to a one million group, she said that the selfhelp movement had brought about a change in the life of women from countries including India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Chile or Nicargua.

Hillary also highlighted the health problems faced by rural women who inhaled smoke while cooking and hailed Dr Kalpana Balakrishnan of Sri Ramachandra University for initiatives to make cooking safer for women and children.

"Because of the health problems caused by inhaling smoke, we worked with many partners around the world to create a Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and are happy that the Indian Government launched its own National Biomass Cookstove Initiative two years ago," she said.

International firm to help local SHGs
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton interacting with excited members of the Working Women's Forum in Chennai on Wednesday.
Jaya, who was earlier felicitated by Clinton for winning the Global Leadership title award for Economic Development in 2005, highlighted the role of the Working Women's Forum in preventing female infanticide, furthering education among adolescent girls, strengthening the productive role of women and taking care of old women through insurance and social security.