by BISMumbai Correspondent

Don Bosco Development Society (DBDS) Mumbai a not-for-profit development organisation, with its tagline ‘steering toward empowerment’, has Women Empowerment as one of its primary focus areas. It animates and sustains more than 900 Self-Help Groups [SHGs] actively operating in rural, urban and tribal areas. More than 10,000 women are members of these SHGs and another 60,000 are associated with these members through various activities. Of these, more than 250 women are involved in micro-level business activities. Apart from being a microcredit finance group, these women are also trained in legal issues and rights, SHG leadership, personality development, financial planning and entrepreneurship, community leadership to resolve their civic and community issues, are also part of the women empowerment project.

In Mumbai city, the DBDS-mentored SHGs , have since 01 July, initiated an online meeting, discussion, planning and execution programme. In the times of the ‘new normal’, these 102 women of 21 SHGs situated in the impoverished, fragile slum environments of Mumbai are using the online medium to stay connected, and ensure the smooth functioning of their respective groups.

Surekha Pednekar DBDS Mumbai Programme Officer says, “We are using Google Meet and WhatsApp video-calling to meet online, so as to continue our work and keep in touch with women in the various communities. Since physical meetings are impossible with the COVID-19 situation, we thought of going online. This is our first experience and so far we are enjoying it. This is another success story for us.”

Father Rolvin D’Mello- Executive Director DBDS Mumbai says, “This is a significant achievement for the women themselves. As every other important aspect of life -schooling, teaching, working, shopping – are all happening online in these ‘new normal’ times, the SHGs too can use the online-digital platforms to organise themselves. This is women empowerment the digital way.”

Pednekar adds, “we women are aware about technology and we feel that our knowledge about technology which earlier was very little, will now increase with the use of these digital platforms.” The other DBDS social outreach staff hope, “that we will beat Corona, and we will not allow Corona to beat us. With the online meetings, we meet once again and move together forward.”

The SHG women have a host of issues to discuss, primary among these being – fighting against the coronavirus with safety and sanitisation measures in their residential areas, ensuring that their household and the vicinity is kept hygienic, and online savings through net banking facilities.