Arogya Agam was at the forefront in India of developing and working with women’s self help groups since the late 80s. Most of the groups promoted by Arogya Agam are from most marginalised Dalit and Adivasi (Tribal) communities in Theni and Dindigul districts with over 4000 members. These groups have been federated.
The local women’s federation is now registered as a mutual benefit trust and has taken over most of the work with 269 women’s self help groups. Arogya Agam provides advice, training and credit linkages with government financial institutions. Much of this credit is used for micro enterprise. We have deputed two staff to assist with administration and accounts but apart from that the federation is self financing. Another federation with 34 groups is functioning in Dindigul, this is being upgraded with formation and addition of Tribal Palliar groups.
Arogya Agam encouraged and financed other NGOs to develop and refine the women’s self help group and federation model and also provided seed money for credit. These federations have now come together at District level with nine federations with over 27,000 members, some federations from other districts have shown an interest to join. Their focus is upon women’s issues including violence against women and girls, sex selective abortion and early marriage of girls. Arogya Agam advises on administrative and financial management of the federation.
From the late 1980s Arogya Agam, women’s groups, partner NGOs and women’s federations took action against female infanticide and sex selective abortion. Cooperation with and concerted efforts by the district health and administration departments was the key to success. Theni District is one of the few districts where the percentage of girls has improved over the past decade. This success has encouraged Arogya Agam and its partner federations and NGOs to take up and address the early marriage of girls. For the past 10 years there has been a focus on domestic violence. Arogya Agam trains and supports anti violence committees at district level and member federations take up over 120 cases per year.