I recently interviewed a small women’s resource center in South India. Sakhi Kerala Women’s Resource Center is like a breeze on a hot day. They work tirelessly to advance the position of women in a culture, society, and city where traditional gender-specific roles are still the norm. Despite the difficulty of their work, Sakhi is still making great strides in educating a populous toward a modern concept of equality, equity, and justice for women.
As a local group working to improve the lives of women in a developing world. I wanted to gain an opinion and perspective from the very people who work in this area and wanted to learn about their own obstacles and achievements.
The obvious obstacle they mentioned, common to nearly all charities and not-for-profit organisations, is a lack of funding. Though this particular charity receives support from international organisations, they still face the harshness of the world’s economic downturn through funding cuts. It’s unfortunate that their work and goals are struggling because of lack of finances. Simply put they don’t have the resources to conduct the work necessary for the goals of the charity. One important factor that was mentioned was the availability of staff. As it stands now, it is a small office with an adjacent library, there are only six full time staff members and without the financial availability to hire a new staff member some of the projects the organisation would like to conduct are put on hold.
Coming from a European and North American background, I asked why they didn’t take on interns. They explained that they don’t have an internship scheme as one would see in Europe or North America: 3-6 month, unpaid/paid/expenses, full-time. Most of their ‘interns’ are more akin to volunteers passing through and offering what little help and assistance they can. The unattractive nature of the position is that it is unpaid. I was told that very few, and in any at all, people do volunteer, they do so with an intention to find a job and leave as soon as they do. The attractive and almost culturally necessary requirement for a paid job is the looming grey cloud for this otherwise bright-eyed organisation.
It was a disappointing revelation to hear that women today are still finding it hard to strike that balance between what they want to do and what society expects them to do. The responsibility to find a job immediately after graduation is an unavoidable cultural necessity in India. Male or female, the point of studying is to find a job and then find a partner- sadly this is as true today as it was during our mother’s time. It’s an unfortunately curious thing altogether for me having been raised in the West to Eastern parents, but in some weird way understandable.
Obstacles are inevitable, but such an obstacle is unfortunate. For organisations like Sakhi people are necessary to achieve their goals and until resources in the form of finances or people are made available such organisations will continue to struggle.