GEOGRAPHICAL CONDITIONS AND WOMEN'S SITUATIONS IN THE AREA OF OPERATION
Holy Cross Social Service Society operates in Bhamini & Kotturu Mandals in Andhra Pradesh State and Gunupur & Gusani Blocks in Orissa state, which are located in drought-prone areas with an annual rainfall ranging from 150-800 mm, or having 23-40 days of rainfall per year. Most villagers are farmers with small non-irrigated land and landless labourers. the farming in the area is quite challenging. The lack of vegetative cover, especially along with occasional cloudbursts in the monsoon season, causes serious soil erosion, leaving the diminished land unproductive. In general lack of rainfall, allows only one crop, often of-course cereals, to be harvested in a year. A second crop is virtually impossible even in irrigated lands. Thus, these areas tend to suffer from food shortages resulting nutritional deficiency. Furthermore, due to lack of adequate aquifer recharge, water for domestic, drinking as well as irrigation purposes become a big problem after the monsoon for a period of at least 6-8 months.
The life of villagers in rural India can be quite difficult. Their situation particularly that of the women is characterized by heavy workload both at home and on the farm; primitive hygienie conditions; poor nutritional values, remote access to health facilities; and illiteracy in addition superstition prevails all-over. Since all the household chores, including water and firewood fetching, are the responsibility of women, many girl children drop out of schools and forced to work long hours around the household. Women are entrusted with the responsibility of attending to the well being of the family, yet they are marginalized in matters pertaining to the upbringing of children and village affairs. They possess no assets, do not have their own funds and have little access to other resources. Moreover, women often have a limited control over their income and savings if they have any. In this society, a woman has a secondary status to that of a man. Savings access to credit offers women, especially the poor, a means to mitigate their vulnerability due to their disadvantaged social status adverse natural environmental conditions. While credit is a necessary support for the economic advancement of women especially those engaged in self-employment. Credit alone is not a sufficient condition. To be successfully self-employed, the individual should also have the technical skills, entrepreneurial ability, and access to raw materials, infrastructure, market and most importantly, the self-confidence.