There is an urgent need to create mechanisms to empower widows in Yavatmal and Vidarbha, and give them the support they need to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward. However, such initiatives are rare. One of the few such projects for the welfare of the helpless women is run by Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) and its sister organization Sampada Trust.
It is with deep sadness that we, the WOTR family, have received the news of the passing of Dr. Werner Cordes, co-founder of the Becker/Cordes Stiftung. Dr. Cordes, who passed away recently at the age of 87, was a long-time supporter and well-wisher of WOTR’s work and the key driver behind our “Chance for Girls Project”.
It was a great pleasure and privilege to work with Dr. Cordes, whose association with WOTR started in the late 1990s. As a person with tremendous commitment to helping the poor and helpless in our society, he wished to support those projects that would help the girl child. In particular, he had a strong desire to support projects that empowered women through promotion of responsible parenthood, family planning and family welfare in the rural areas of Maharashtra.
What began as a “Responsible Parenthood” project in the late 1990s soon broadened its approach as it was realized that family planning alone, in terms of spacing of children, was not enough to empower women. Health and nutrition had also to be integrated into the overall objectives of the project. From this was born the “Chance for Girls” project in 2012 which is now being implemented in several hundred villages in Maharashtra.
The “Chance for Girls” project was and is being implemented in challenging circumstances, facing barriers of patriarchal attitudes, biases against women, and poor nutritional status of both women and men. Despite these challenges, Dr. Cordes' support and commitment never wavered. As a result, in 11 villages of Beed district of Maharashtra, between 2012 and 2018, the sex ratio improved from 817 in 2012 to 1023. The project also incorporated the ‘Atmadarshan’ or inner healing approach that enables communities and individuals to reflect on their biases and give them up.
It was the vision and optimism together with the sustained support of both Dr. Cordes and his wife, Roswitha Cordes, which made these results possible. Our deepest gratitude also goes out to the Rotary Clubs of Hagen-Lenne and Lippetal who also joined him in supporting the ‘Chance for Girls’ project.
Dr. Cordes passing away has left a huge vacuum in the hearts and minds of countless people, both in India and Germany. He is survived by his wife Roswitha Cordes, his family and close relatives. We at WOTR convey our deepest condolences to the bereaved family. May his soul rest in peace.
As a small token of our appreciation, we enclose the ‘You Gave Me a Chance’ booklet below, which covers the transformative work done under this project.