Women’s Empowerment through Healthcare, Economic Independence and Rights

Focus Areas: Women’s Empowerment, Healthcare, Sustainable Rural Development
Location: Karnal District, Haryana

Background: Many women in rural Haryana, especially poor women, have marginal control over their lives and little access to education and other government services. Haryana state has the lowest ratio of women to men in India, a testament to widespread female feticide.

Our Women’s Self-Help Group program has been a heartening story of empowerment. It is beginning to redefine the women’s roles and rights  in this  gender-biased region through a structured knowledge exchange and exposure program. The program addresses the core developmental issues of healthcare, family planning and economic independence for women. Our grassroots partner, Arpana, has been recognized by the World Health Organization for its successful programs.

Program workers and a self-help group present a skit about antenatal health care to the village women

IDRF began its collaboration with Arpana by providing mobile medical vans. Then, from 2004 to 2009, it supported family planning and rural health in 10 villages. While Arpana paramedics worked with government health workers to provide medical services to expectant mothers, other staff trained women’s self-help groups to take responsibility for these services and to stand up against the prevalent practices of dowry and female feticide. The program yielded outstanding results – by the end of the second year, the target villages had achieved a rate of 67% contraceptive protection. In three years, these villages experienced a dramatic reduction in birth rates from 31% to 23%.

IDRF helped Arpana expand this program to 40 villages with a renewed focus on gender parity.  Staff and self-help groups conduct trainings and rallies to enhance women’s knowledge and skills on gender issues, local governance, nutrition, family planning, and HIV/AIDs. Arpana encourages women leaders to train each other and streamlines knowledge-sharing. As a result of these efforts, the number of self-help groups and their net financial savings increased greatly. These self-help groups are now serving as role models for women in other villages.

The program quickly expanded to 65 villages with an emphasis on business skills, leadership, and participation in male-dominated village governance.  The self-help groups’ businesses, like dairy cooperatives, are doing very well.   Inspired by their leadership training, the women formed two federations of self-help groups to oversee group governance and accounting.

In 2012, with additional IDRF support, Arpana expanded the program to over 100 villages.  Now the program covers 9,100 women in 650 self-help groups. The program educates women about the needs and rights of disabled people.  The long-term goal is to create self-help groups of disabled women where they can generate their own income, access government entitlements, and live free from the stigma of disability.


Program workers and self-help group women explain the dangers of water-borne diseases.

Reports from the Field

Program Report August 2011-12
IDRF Consultant visit Dec 2010
Interim Report on Exposure Visits 2010
Interim Report March 2010
Interim Report June to Nov 2009
Program Report 2008-09
Program Report 2007-08