UNITED STAND: The Shakti Women's Festival highlights the work of of ARD(Australia)Inc. Wendy Royston takes part in the work of the local charity that has been supporting women in rural India since 2005.
UNITED STAND: The Shakti Women's Festival highlights the work of of ARD(Australia)Inc. Wendy Royston takes part in the work of the local charity that has been supporting women in rural India since 2005.

Locals support Indian women at festival

A LOCAL group of charity workers will focus on women's empowerment in India at an upcoming festival on the Far North Coast.

The Shakti Women's Empowerment Festival is an initiative of theAcademy of Root Development, a not-for-profit charitable organisation that aims to bring equity and opportunity to rural villages in Bihar, India.

ARD(Australia)Inc has been supporting women in rural India since 2005.

Under the name of Women's Empowerment in Indian Villages (WEIV), they run a reproductive and child health program that reaches around 4500 women in the target area.

It also operates eight literacy centres for adolescent girls who otherwise would not receive any formal education.

The format of the festival will include a Friday evening presentation of WEIV's work in India and a musical concert, plus a Saturday program including forums, workshops and talks on specific topics, followed by an evening of Indian classical dance themed around women's empowerment.

Speakers include Nan Nicholson, Annie Kia, Mary Gardner, Sue Higginson, Delta Kay, Wendy Royston, Ella Goninan, Deborah Pearse and Tamara Smith.

The festival is an opportunity to "Explore, Celebrate and Promote” women and to bring active awareness of their insight, capacity and strength in our society today.

Graeme Batterbury started the organisation in 2002 with the support of a young Indian man who wanted to start a health centre in his family village.

" Health centres require a considerable ongoing investment, so we began a rural livelihood program supporting women through self-help groups” Mr Batterbury said.

In 2007 Wendy Royston joined ARD and brought with her the skills and dedication to positively change the lives of the women in the program.

Through to 2013, ARD worked in the field of micro-finance and income generation activities, facilitated by the formation of village-level self help groups.

In the self help groups, the women join together to discuss the situations and issues in their lives and support each other to take effective steps towards greater control in private and in society, Mr Batterbury said.

Recent studies show that education and financial liberation of women helps them overcome exploitation and creates confidence for the economic self-reliance of rural poor.