Once upon a time Graeme Batterby was travelling in India and met a young man who asked for help to build a health clinic in his rural village. This gradually morphed into a women’s empowerment program as he and partner Wendy Royston saw the need.
‘Given my background as a child of Holocaust survivors, I have always felt very keenly the need to address inequality wherever I’ve seen it,’ says Wendy. ‘First we worked in micro-finance and now we are working in reproductive and child-health, education and literacy.
The project, now called Women’s Empowerment in Indian Villages (WEIV), is an NGO established by Northern Rivers residents Wendy and Graeme and managed by a team of Byron and Lismore-based volunteers.
WEIV’s two major projects revolve around reproductive health education and female literacy in Dalit villages in Bihar, the poorest state in India.
Throughout COVID-19, WEIV staff (social workers and teachers) have continued to work as best they can, reaching people by phone or by socially distancing.
‘Covid has led to more oppression of women in India as they are forced even more to stay in the home. Our staff are keeping in touch, as much as possible, via the phone with the women and girls in the program, so that they know that someone else in the community is looking out for their welfare.’
WEIV projects are 100 per cent funded by donations and events. In addition to the reproductive health education and eight literacy centres, this year we are committed to help graduating students enter into mainstream education. They will need support with homework and supplies of textbooks, pens, exercise books and uniforms. WEIV is dedicating funds from this year’s main fundraiser to this purpose.
This is where you come in – swap your lovely, but rarely worn, clothes for other lovely but rarely worn clothes and support the project. Bring along your good quality clothes on hangers please (no underwear or swimwear) to the Fabulous Clothes Swap Saturday. There will also be babies’/childrens’ clothes swapped. There will be free refreshments, cake and coffee and tea, live music, and raffle prizes.
‘It is really upsetting to see that so many girls and women in India have so much potential and are not given the chance, because of poverty and patriarchy, to realise this potential,’ says Wendy.
The event is on this Saturday 1 May, from 2 till 4pm, at the Gondwana Community Hall, Prestons Lane, Tyagarah. Entry is by a suggested donation of $20. To book a place phone Francoise on 0404 728 450.