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The Mahila Project

 The Mahila Project

Poverty is a threat to peace. Societies are destabilized by extreme poverty, which leads to becoming havens of unrest and violence. Traditionally, women have been marginalized. Micro-lending is an innovative approach to ending poverty and improving lives. Women reaching out to women around the globe, connecting with experts, and sharing with compassion will empower them to discover their strengths and explore their fullest potential. The wider impact is hope--hope to get out of extreme poverty; hope to feed a family's children; and hope for a new life.

Montage Initiative’s first project will focus on the widows and women of India. With over 41 million widows in India, these women have been stripped of their families, possessions, homes, and even their own status. They are left to survive on their own in extreme poverty and as outcasts on the streets.

Our project began with a research and development trip to India in November 2009. We spent time in the city of Vrindavan, known as "The City of Widows." We stayed in the only existing shelter in the area that houses 120 widows of the 15,000 residing on the streets of Vrindavan. We also visited five surrounding villages, where women have created empowerment groups to help each other find ways of improving their lives. During our time there, we explored the immediate and long-term needs of these women. We looked for ways to most effectively initiate micro-lending projects. This is along with our continuous efforts to further advocate the education of the affected population and to raise awareness on the difficult living conditions in the communities.   

We will be returning to Vrindavan this fall with the roll-out of our "Mahila" project, with the intention of implementing an upgraded and better access to the existing Internet technology for the women in Ma Dham shelter while organizing a training and education program that will enable the women in the shelter and surrounding area to extend their capabilities. From these initiatives, we will then finalize the ideas we initially explored in better serving the needs of these women.

"Women want the same wherever they are – to feed, protect, and educate their children and take charge of their own destiny.  The only difference between the women we met in India and the women we are is geography.   As our trip drew to a close, we knew our world would never be the same again. And we pledged to one another that we would do all that we could to make a lasting and sustainable difference in their lives..."