Various studies, as well as our experience, have shown that when we help women and empower them, the whole society benefits. Their families are healthier, children go to school, income levels improve and communities become more prosperous. But unfortunately in India, far from being empowered, most women are denied even their basic rights like health, education, employment and a respectable status in society.
According to UNDP Human Development Report (2009), 88% of pregnant women (age 15-49) were found to be suffering from anaemia. India has a dangerously imbalanced sex ratio, the chief reason being female infanticides and sex-selective abortions. According to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 47% of India's women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18.
Swabhiman, meaning self-respect in English, was initiated in 2005 to address these challenges through a simple yet effective approach. Functioning as an NGO for women, Smile Foundation has strategically formulated the programme to save the girl child, empower poor and support women empowerment. The programme is specifically aimed at realization of both individual and collective self-esteem and inner strength for marginalised and socially excluded women and adolescent girls through innovative community practices.
A tailor-made strategy called the ‘4 S Model’ has been developed under Swabhiman. The ‘4 S Model’ is an acronym for four novel approaches, namely Seeking Healthcare as a Behaviour, Support for Education, Supporters in Men through Male Involvement, and Sustaining the Change in Communities.
The programme identifies adolescent girls and women from the community and develops them into Change Agents, who in turn actively contribute to the community mobilization process.
So far, Swabhiman has successfully made a difference to the lives of over 150,000 women and girl children.