More than one million women in rural India will benefit from a new $208 million 'empowerment financing programme', partly funded by the United Nations agricultural development agency.
Aimed at boosting access to micro finance, better livelihood opportunities, self-help groups and local governance, the Tejaswini Rural Women's Empowerment Programme will help poor women in the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
The UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has provided a $ 39.5 million concessional loan for Tejaswini - a woman who is radiant, an empowered woman - a name chosen by local participants. The balance of the financing is mostly coming from Indian national and state development banks.
The loan agreement for the eight-year programme was signed in Rome on Thursday by IFAD's President, Lennart Båge and India's ambassador to UN agencies, Rajiv Dogra, according to the UN news service.
Although India is one of the world's fastest growing economies, growth has been uneven and as agriculture's share of GDP has declined, many rural women still live in extreme poverty, the IFAD explained in a statement.
Another aim of the programme is to broaden the scope of women's roles, beyond strictly domestic and agricultural support work. Rural areas are particularly resistant to change and the programme will provide legal training to deal with such women's issues as child marriages, domestic violence and demands for dowry.
Reflecting the tremendous success of the self-help group movement in India more than 74,000 such groups will be involved in this programme and federations of self-help groups are expected to develop, the IFAD statement noted.
Besides filling in gaps women still experience in access to financing the programme will also help them improve cost-effective production through new technology and to reach larger, more distant markets.
This latest loan brings IFAD's total investment in India to $ 500 million in 21 programmes and projects. IFAD is a UN specialised agency dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries through low-interest loans and grants.