The Association of Strong Women Alone made all the difference for Maina.

Headshot of Maina Bai, an Indian woman, in a pattern pink sari.
Maina Bai can now read and write and is empowering others to become literate.
Credit: ASWA


Maina Bai’s mother died when she was a baby, and Maina never went to school.

When she was just 10 years old, her father married her off to an older man. By 16, she had a child. A few years after the birth of her daughter, her husband died. When she returned to her maternal home, Maina was married off―again.

After a few years of marriage, Maina became a widow again. Single, she faced extraordinary stigma.

Approximately 2.18 million single women like Maina live in the state of Rajasthan, India. Whether they are widowed, divorced, or have never been married, these women are deemed “incomplete” and a disgrace to their families. As a result, many live lives marked by stigma, fear, and violence―simply for not being married.

In 1986, The United Church of Canada partnered with Astha Sansthan, an organization that empowers marginalized individuals to advocate for their needs. In 1999, Astha Sansthan launched the Association of Strong Women Alone (ASWA), which your Mission & Service gifts support. Immediately, 450 single women joined. Today, there are more than 70,000 members.

ASWA’s approach is simple: Create a safe space for single women to come together and get the knowledge and skills necessary to improve their lives.

The association has made all the difference for Maina.

She can now read and write and is empowering other women to become literate. Because of her leadership, 35 women have enrolled in adult learning. All of them now have grade eight certificates. What’s more, the generational cycle of illiteracy has been broken. Maina’s daughter can not only read and write but is also teaching others to do the same.

Your Mission & Service gifts empower women like Maina to be agents of change within their communities. Thank you for your generosity.