Between 2005 and 2007, Women without Borders (WwB) launched a series of income generating workshops for a segment of the South Indian population that had struggled more than most following the 2004 tsunami: females above the age of forty. Some 500 women across 15 villages underwent entrepreneurial training, many of whom subsequently formed small business collectives in their respective villages.
Women above the age of forty were particularly impacted by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. When traditional social networks and structures broke down and village communities became almost entirely dependent on outside help, this segment of the female population living in the coastal region of Tamil Nadu received insufficient attention and support. Due to their societal status, women above the age of forty often faced social exclusion and tended to depend on their children. Those who lost their children in the tsunami were suddenly on their own, without the necessary knowledge required to take their lives into their own hands.
Alarmed at the news that the flow of international help did not reach many elderly women in the coastal areas, Women without Borders (WwB) developed ‘Take the Future into Your Hands!’, a rehabilitation and support initiative addressing this overlooked segment of women in the district of Kanchipuram. The project was supported by the Austrian Ministry for Social Affairs, Generations, and Consumer Protection, and by the Austrian Ambassador to India Dr. Jutta Stefan-Bastl. In partnership with its local implementing partner SMART, WwB provided 500 women across 15 villages with social empowerment and entrepreneurial training workshops. The income generating workshops also paid close attention to widows and disabled women.
Through this new economic model, the participating women were encouraged to become more financially independent by pursuing their own initiatives. Workshop participants went on to use their skills in order to manufacture, market, and sell their own goods, including food products, handbags, and skirts. The first small entrepreneurial ventures were made up of groups of five women to form a series of so-called ‘business teams’. The successes of these women were documented in the film ‘Chronicle of Change: Life Beyond the Tsunami’, which was premiered in March 2007 at the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi on International Women’s Day.