Rural Women's Social Education Centre
managed by RUWSEC C.
Rural Women’s Social Education Centre (RUWSEC) is a women’s organisation founded in 1981. It is based in Chengalpattu, Kancheepuram District of Tamil Nadu. Achieving women's wellbeing through women's empowerment is our organisation’s vision. Our focus has been on enabling women to gain greater control over their bodies and their lives and achieving wellbeing, through promotion of gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights. Developing leadership among ‘dalit’ women has been a major achievement of the organization over the past three decades.
Since its inception, RUWSEC was a grassroots organisation with community-based workers drawn from the local villages. Our approach was to motivate, educate and organise women from poor and marginalised communities to stand up for their rights and become agents of change. We wanted rural poor women to be able to analyse the socio-economic and political factors underlying their lack of good health and control over their sexuality and fertility and to have the knowledge and skills to alter their own situations.
Our strategy was to start with a series of community meetings and workshops, from which we identify a core group of young community leaders – mostly women but also men. Ongoing training and learning opportunities were provided, and those with potential are encouraged to develop their own project ideas, which they then lead. To enable innovators to become project leaders, training in project management and implementation was provided. Some of them are currently running their own organisations with support from RUWSEC.
RUWSEC is now engaged in research, training, advocacy, and technical support organisation providing inputs to grassroots organisations in Tamil Nadu which are working on gender, reproductive, sexual health and rights. In addition, we have helped the formation of a group of grassroots organisations under the leadership of former RUWSEC workers, working on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and have been providing them with financial support and technical guidance for effective implementation.
During the nearly three decades of its existence, RUWSEC has implemented a wide spectrum of activities ranging from comprehensive community based reproductive health education and promotion, to reproductive health research with a women-centred perspective; running a reproductive health services clinic; community-based interventions to prevent domestic violence against women; and, innovative work with young women and men on gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The RUWSEC clinic is the outcome of several years of work around reproductive health and rights with women in the local communities, who, frustrated with the poor quality of services offered by the public sector and the high cost and insensitive and irrational services of the private sector demanded a clinic of their own that will serve their interests. In response to this, RUWSEC started a Reproductive Health Clinic 14 years ago in order to provide an alternative facility for meeting women’s health needs, even while continuing to lobby for changes in and more accountability of the existing health system.
We envisage RUWSEC's Clinic/hospital to be an alternative health facility in all respects: in the quality of health care it provides, in its approach to women’s health as related to their low status, in its focus on enabling women to take charge of their health instead of being passive recipients of health care, in its treatment of women as intelligent and capable persons who will work towards improving their health if given the means to do so.