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The Heart of England Co-operative Society Helps Give Aspiring Women in India a Bright Future

A donation by the Heart of England Co-operative Society to help India in its fight against Covid-19 is helping young working women to learn new professional skills and build a sustainable future out of the pandemic.

The Society lent its support to an appeal by Co-operatives UK last summer, donating £11,500 to SEWA (Self Employed Womens’ Association).

The original target of £70,000 was used to firefight the pandemic through crisis response – purchasing emergency items including household kits with masks, sanitisers and paracetamol, and critical supplies such as oxygen.

It was also used to establish a helpline for people in need of information and guidance about the virus. The Society’s donation was made at the height of the pandemic in June last year, by which time India had recorded almost 30 million cases and 400,000 deaths. To date there has been more than 42 million cases and 505,000 deaths.

Now with the number of daily cases falling, SEWA is using the target excess of £32,000 in its efforts to provide hope and skills to women in India, helping them to learn new skills, build successful careers and maintain their independence.

Specifically, the money is being invested in a two-year programme supporting the development of two incubator co-operatives. The first is a grassroots media co-operative allowing women to learn about media, journalism, graphic design, photography and new media. The second looks at research, including surveys, focus group discussion and report writing.

Mirai Chatterjee, Chairperson of SEWA Co-operative Federation, said, “The scheme will provide hope for a brighter future for many women. Women in India mainly work informally meaning their earnings can be unreliable and as soon as the crisis hit many lost their income overnight.

“Thanks to the vital support provided by our co-operative friends in the UK we’re helping them to form two grassroots co-operatives to create a sustainable livelihood for themselves.

“As well as learning technical skills in communications and research, around 40 young women will develop leadership and business management skills and we’re developing market links to help them secure regular work and provide income security.”

Ali Kurji, Chief Executive of the Heart of England Co-operative Society, said, “We were delighted to join forces with other co-operatives around the UK last year for the benefit of our peers in India. The collaborative effort was just one of the many excellent examples of international co-operation at its finest!

“As originally planned, the first £70,000 was used for a crisis response to the pandemic in India. But the generosity of our fellow co-operatives across the UK will help the rebuilding effort in India and will give many women the chance of a bright future.”