Everywhere in the world women face cultural and societal pressures. But women in impoverished communities in India are up against extraordinary challenges. The tradition of child marriage, reinforced by poverty, instability, and lack of resources, sees parents wedding off young girls in order to reduce the financial burden on their struggling families. The practice of child marriage is not unique to any one country in the world, nor is it specific to a particular religion or community. India has more child brides than anywhere else in the world. It is estimated that up to 47% of the nearly 600 million child marriages globally involve little children under the age of 18!

Wildlife SOS has designed and carried out initiatives to empower women belonging to Kalandar communities in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Women empowerment initiatives help provide additional financial security by making women secondary income earners for their families. Over 1,500 Kalandar women have been given vocational training or seed funding to start businesses. Our organization carries out capacity building and skills’ training of women as well as generating awareness and providing support to discourage child marriages. Wildlife SOS provides women with seed funds, extensive technical support services, including training and extension assistance, to create micro enterprises. Where necessary, we provide marketing assistance and linkages with suppliers and buyers. Consulting is provided to help the women in choosing appropriate entrepreneurial ventures suited to their capabilities. Training in the elected skill (e.g. training in embroidery, stitching, jewelry making, bag making, stone polishing, powdering and packaging of spices, and in other forms of “business” that could be run from the house) is then accordingly provided.

Wildlife SOS has also provided initial funds for the formation of self-help groups (revolving fund) for the women aimed at allowing them to manage their incomes jointly, offsetting maintenance and emergency requirements and even allowing for purchasing new equipment, tools and raw material as additional members join the group.