Anjali - Empowered and empowering

IPPF Japan Trust Fund

Anjali

Empowered and
empowering

The JTF project provided me with the confidence to support the women around me.

Anjali was a typical homemaker in the city of Gwalior in central India, living a quiet domestic life. When her family faced a financial hardship, she decided to look for a job to earn income. That is how, in 2018, she became involved in a Japan Trust Fund (JTF) project run by the Family Planning Association of India (FPA India).

Since then she has undergone a transformation. The JTF project opened new doors for Anjali, which she didn’t even think of when she started. She found the confidence to become an activist for women’s rights and a tutor to help women become financially independent.

As one of her first tasks in the project, Anjali had to set up a self-help group. She has provided free beautician training through her self-help group to more than 250 women and girls, helping many of them gain employment.

Anjali realised that she could train more women in her community with other vocational skills, but she needed support. She reached out to FPA India who provided her with a mill and sewing machines for her training centre through the project. They also provided ongoing support as she expanded her work.

Now, the women grind spices and make cloth bags and other products to sell locally. They also learn business skills such as reaching new customers and keeping accounts. Anjali’s group has also been given a contract by the state government to make face masks in response to COVID-19 pandemic.

I received extensive support from the JTF project, it gave me the confidence to start this initiative - not just for me but also for other women.

Anjali has built trust in her community – many women refer to her affectionately as ‘mother’ or ‘sister’ – which makes it easier for the women to seek work outside their homes.

Anjali giving a training session.

“I want these girls to be financially independent even after they get married. My experience is that every woman has to get out of the house some time!”

Anjali’s self help group reaches women who have not received any formal education.

Skills development to resolving domestic conflicts

Anjali has conducted more than 30 meetings on gender-based violence, in schools, colleges and local health centres.

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uring the project’s second year Anjali’s work expanded beyond vocational skills training.

I never had the courage to stand up to anyone who misbehaved with me. Now I not only stand up for myself but also speak up for the women in my community. I was able to take the first step because of the JTF project which opened many new paths for me. After that, several other organizations and people started reaching out to me.

Anjali has become a counsellor for the Urgent Relief and Just Action (URJA) which is a state government’s initiative aiming to support women survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Two days a week, she visits the local Janaganj police station to sit at the helpdesk. She also conducts outreach meetings. e station to support women survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

When I conduct outreach meetings on breaking the silence around sexual and gender-based violence, I meet women and girls who are facing harassment and abuse but are not able to raise their voices. It motivated me to strengthen the helpdesk by encouraging members of my own self help group to join the URJA team. Now they come along with me to meetings and the police station.

Impact on Anjali’s family

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njali’s family has gone through a transformation with her. Her mother-in-law Rama and husband Pradeep were not happy, at first, about her leaving home to work.

Rama says: “Daughters-in-law don’t usually go out to work. We were also worried about her safety. However, in the last few years, I see how many women respect her immensely. I am happy to see that.”

Anjali has not just changed her own life but has created new paths and opportunities for hundreds of women and girls along the way. Neelam Dixit from the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) adds,

Anjali’s can-do attitude is inspiring. She is not just working to support women financially but helps them with all their problems. When Anjali started, she was quite hesitant but now she can do everything independently.

Anjali with her husband and mother-in-law.

“I am most thankful to the inspiring women in my life including my group members and FPAI team. They are my backbone. I am also grateful to my family for their support.”

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Archana, one of the group members adds, “I really like working with ‘Anjali didi’. With her help I not only did better financially but I also received recognition for my work. She is like a sister to me.”

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njali Chauhan was born in Maharashtra, western India. She comes from a big family. Her father has been a social worker for most of his life which inspired Anjali’s sense of community service. While growing up, Anjali spent a lot of time with her Aa ji (aunty in Marathi) who taught her to not judge people by their appearance, status and caste and to treat everyone as a human being.

After finishing high school, Anjali got married and moved to Gwalior city with her husband’s extended family. She has two sons who are in college now. After the deaths of her father-in-law and brother-in-law, her family were struggling financially, which motivated her to look for means to support her family.

Since 2018, Anjali has been associated with the JTF project as a self-help group founder and trainer. She wants to continue working in this field.

Published on 2 February 2021