Help Her Earn

Women produce half the world's food, but own only one percent of the world's farmland.


Meet mythbuster Ianusuya

Ianusuya's husband doused her with kerosene, lit a match and held it close to her for refusing to pay a dowry to another family for her daughter. Faced with death, Ianusuya refused to relent. "No dowry," she said.

Ianusuya ran and sought shelter at a women's group in Dharmajipet, a rural village in the Indian state of Andrah Pradesh. Paying 10,000 rupees for her daughter, she said, would reinforce the very mindset that had led her husband to believe he had the right to abuse her for disobeying. Dowries promote the idea that women are objects to be bought and sold, not self-sufficient individuals capable of contributing to society and their own homes.

Ianusuya's women's group was small but determined. Together, the dozen women confronted Ianusuya's husband and the family that wanted to pay a dowry for her daughter. They succeeded in convincing them that a dowry was not right. The women's group joined a microfinance program, took out loans and purchased several cows. Milk sales soon had them turning a profit. The women were united in the belief that women had much to offer — outside the home.

Banding together with other women's groups in 20 nearby villages, they formed a wider federation. Ianusuya was selected president. Under her leadership, the federation launched a soap-making business. Before long, "Uttam" brand soap was the most popular in their community. By 2008, the Uttam factory had 19 employees producing 3,200 bars per day. Now, each woman in Ianusuya's group makes enough money to send her children — including girls — to school.

Recently, one daughter became the first in the village to attend college. "You can easily break a single match stick, but not 12 together," Ianusuya says. "Unity is our strength." Now, the women show their influence is growing in other ways. They successfully pushed for a local ordinance banning alcohol, which they believe fuels violence against women.


A woman will, on average, reinvest 90 percent of her income back into her family. But, there are more than 1.4 billion people in the world who live on less than $1.50 a day. In countries with little or no industry, private sector jobs are rare. Women have to create their own opportunities to feed and provide for their families.

Photo Credit: © 2008 Brendan Bannon/CARE