RICHMOND, Va. — Woman’s Missionary Union of India has just launched a new web site, thanks to a collaboration with its counterpart in Virginia.The new site — at www.wmuv.org/wmui — is the latest joint endeavor in a year-old partnership between the WMUs of Virginia and India.
WMUV helped launch the Indian organization, based in the southwestern state of Kerala, in February 2010. The Virginia group hosts the web site and posts updates in close consultation with Divya Matthew, WMU of India’s coordinator.
“Divya and I Skype once month or so, depending on [Internet] availability,” said Laura McDaniel, WMUV executive director-treasurer. “We also regularly correspond by e-mail. Divya tells us what she wants us to post.”
McDaniel said electricity, consequently Internet access, is limited in the eastern district of Idukki where Matthew lives. WMUV’s assistance in developing a web site was essential, McDaniel said.
Idukki, the largest of Kerala’s 14 administrative districts, is mountainous and densely forested, and in the past was covered with tea plantations.
“The people in the Idukki district were dependent on the tea plantations for their daily living, but for the last 10 years most of the plantations have closed down and people are going through a lot of challenges,” Matthew said on one the web site’s first posts.
Those economic challenges prompted one of WMUI’s first projects — “Loving Touch,” a project aimed at improving the lives of elderly women in eastern Kerala.
While severe poverty exists in the Idukki district, elderly women are often the most neglected, said Matthew. After an assessment of the region undertaken by Matthew and other WMUI leaders, the coordinator said, “I left those women with a heavy heart. … Their situation invites our sympathy.”
WMUI’s goal is to be able to provide clothing, medicine, vitamins and at least one meal a day. By providing a nourishing meal, medical attention, activities and Bible study each day, “we can show these women that they have value and worth in God’s Kingdom,” said Matthew.
Currently WMUI is providing direct assistance to 36 women.
WMUI is closely aligned with the India Baptist Convention, one of more than 20 regional Baptist organizations in the vast country. The India Baptist Convention, counts about 100 churches with about 6,000 members, primarily in Kerala.
Also closely allied with the IBC are the India Baptist Theological Seminary and the Precious Children’s Home, both near the city of Kottayam, about 100 miles from Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram.
In May, WMUI’s executive committee voted to launch new WMU chapters in three other southern Indian states — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Last February, while attending WMUI’s first annual meeting since its 2010 founding, McDaniel said expansion was on the agenda.
“We talked about Divya’s vision to see WMUI’s network expand,” she said. “We encouraged pastors to help them do that.”
Both IBC president Kunjumon Chacko and the convention’s general secretary, B.V.R. Rao, have offered enthusiastic support as well, McDaniel said.
The executive committee also hopes to begin a program for school-aged girls living in poverty which would provide uniforms — required in Indian public schools — and text books.
In an wide-ranging address at WMUI’s launch last year, Matthew expressed the group’s ambitious goals.
“This is the first stepping stone to where we will wipe off the existing social evils, injustice, poverty, unemployment, exploitations and disease among the women’s community of this nation,” she said.
“Focusing on women is very relevant in a nation where the majority of the population is women. Even though they play vital roles as mothers, housewives and sometimes bread winners, they are being dominated by men, which is part of our culture.”
That must change, she added.
“It has been rightly mentioned by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, ‘If you educate a boy, you educate only one individual; but if you educate a girl, you educate the whole family,’ “ Matthew said.
She added: “Women’s education is inevitable to strengthen and bring them to the mainstream of society. There is a positive correlation between a woman’s literacy rate and life expectancy. …
“Illiteracy is associated with poverty, malnutrition, deprivation, high mortality, high population growth and other aspects of under development. In India, the literacy rate of women is significantly low and we have to bring it up.”