With International Women’s Day just around the corner, here’s a look at two Malleswaram organisations that have worked to support women

Walking into the Malleswaram Ladies Association’s (MLA) office is overwhelming. The walls are decorated with photos of inspirational women who came together with a vision to effect social change through activities that empower women. Currently catering to over 2,600 students at its First Grade College for Women, MLA has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1927. One of its most memorable highlights is when Mahatma Gandhi visited them in 1934 to praise their efforts in uplifting women.

Centre for training, arts

Run by dedicated honorary members, MLA initially conducted a number of vocational training courses such as tailoring and basket weaving as a means for financial self-sustainability. It was a forum for fellowship and a centre for talent and arts. At present, they manage a multi-layered institution that provides education from ‘KG to PG’. Because of its unique culture, it’s not surprising to find many generations of women from the same family studying and working in the institution.

Mangala Ramachandar, the honorary secretary of MLA, says, “Knowing that for as long as the institution exists, women will continue to be empowered through education is what brings a smile to my face.” One touching story is that of Padmaja, the Principal of the MLA Academy of Higher Learning, who was a beneficiary when she was younger and sought their support through the years. She said “I studied here and worked in a government job, but when I heard they had an opening, I came here because the staff and students are like family.”

Space for women

The Malleswaram Enterprising Women’s Society, on the other hand, is an organisation that has been providing a living space for 50-60 working women and students from low income backgrounds since 1963. They also rent out their premises to the Crafts Council of Karnataka and the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography conduct classes daily. Behind the office is also a school for adults with special needs.

In 1952, a group of women got together a few times a week to pick up vocational skills such as cane work and other crafts. Now, the group has grown to have 150 members. Every year, MEWS conducts a Santhe that encourages artists and women entrepreneurs to set up stalls and sell their wares, and the funds are used to run the hostel. The excess money is donated by them to charities such as Seva Sadan and the Nightingales Dementia Centre.

‘Like home’

Sukanya H. from Tiptur lived in the MEWS hostel when she was studying, and came back to stay once she got a job as an HR manager. “This has never felt like a hostel; it is like a home. Any time we need help, we can approach any of them without hesitation. In the future, I want to help other women.”