Evolved from the Adverse

Stories of Self Help Groups (SHGs)

Bharathi Makhal’s economic and social conditions changed after she joined a Self Help Group in Panaqua Gram Panchayat, under DBSS Barrackpore in West Bengal. Prior to this she and her husband worked hard to make both the ends meet and provide for their children. The Self Help Group (SHG) gave her opportunities at her old age to take loan from bank and start her own business. She now makes bamboo baskets and sells in the market which allows her to earn approx. Rs. 3,000/- per month. Women in the villages are mobilized to come together and form Self Help Groups to develop themselves, but it is not only used as a tool towards helping them access credit and initiate income generation activities but is also used towards disseminating information on rights, social welfare schemes and the governance process.

CNI SBSS’s prime role involves accompanying and capacitating Diocesan Board of Social Services (DBSS) to facilitate the empowerment process for marginalized communities. One of the outcomes of the engagement is developing social capital, enhancing the skills, support for income generation through cooperatives and SHGs. SHG in particular is an effective tool to alleviate poverty and empower women.

SHG_atDBSS_Durgapur[1]Tribal women in Sannasdighi, Gongra & Bintara Village in Durgapur, West Bengal had no space for decision making regarding the village development process. It was not that they lacked confidence, knowledge or skills but they have been kept away strategically. Men did not want to share their power and the one who earns for the house is the power holder. DBSS Durgapur conducted strenuous discussions and debates with the women and men of the villages to form Selh Help Groups. The women in the village with the DBSS Durgapure team  formed Self Help Groups viz. Shiv Sayang, Adhar Alo and Bhagirathi. Trainings on different alternate livelihood options were conducted by the DBSS team to build the capacities and skills of the members. Now they do poltry, piggry and farming. The women are trained in Animal Husbandry, making candles, incense sticks and Jute Mattresses. They are now active in decision making process in their household as well as in the development process of the village.

20150427_135404[1]Self Help Groups deposit money and take loan on a regular basis for different purposes viz. repair houses, purchase livestock, small business etc. Individual activity is mostly preferred to group activity; consequently more loans go to individual members in the group. As a result, the individual members within the group grow and group activity takes a back seat. There are, however, certain successful groups as well that work together as a group for the village’s development. Six Self Help Groups formed under the guidance of DBSS Chotanagpur, Jharkhand are running Public Distribution System units (Ration Shops) in their villages to nullify the exploitation of PDS units run by dealers. When the members identified that the dealers are not supplying the right amount of grains and fuel to people and that PDS unit does not exist in their villages; the SHGs decided to set up PDS shops in their villages for the benefit of the villagers. Women in these villages are now empowered and exercise their rights. The initiative and skills of the women have not just availed the PDS facilities in the community, but it has also opened doors to other development initiatives in the village.

Tukai_SHG[1]Tukia Self Help Group in Newasa Taluk, Ahmednagar under DBSS Nasik in Maharashtra, provided training on making toys and handi-craft items and opened a shop to sell their products. The group not just caters to the financial needs of the members but also addresses the issues of health, education, child marriage, domestic violence and exploitation. The earnestness of the group was appreciated by Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (A Self Help Group movement in Maharashtra). Tukai Self Help Group was honored by the Government of Maharashtra in 2014 during an exhibition held at Ahmednagar for working together efficiently and productively. Jagaran Self Help Group in Madhya Hatgacha under DBSS Kolkata in West Bengal, faced lot of hurdles to find space, capital, materials and approval from their household and locality to set up a shop in their village’s local market.  The women had no technical skill to start a small scale business, thus they decided to open a small snack store. They showed courage and determination to achieve what they aimed, now the shop runs well and makes a profit of Rs. 250/- per day.  The Self Help Group discontinued due to some internal issues, but those few members are still working together and managing the shop.

Sustainability of all the development intervention in the community level is a critical factor. Thus to attain the project’s aim in building ‘Human and Social capital’, the village leaders and active members of people’s institutions should be the key players in carrying forward the struggle of the villagers. The skill building process and experience gained by these members/ individuals will ensure not only building institution at village level but also facilitate the community to realize their problems and find ways of solving them.

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