SHGs transforming the face of Rural Entrepreneurship in India’s Villages
“When a destitute mother starts earning an income, her dreams of success invariably centre around her children. A woman’s second priority is the household. She wants to buy utensils, build a stronger roof, or find a bed for herself and her family. A man has an entirely different set of priorities. When a destitute father earns extra income, he focuses more attention on himself. Thus money entering a household through a woman brings more benefits to the family as a whole.” – Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, Founder – Grameen Bank
Women in rural India have always been given a secondary status and undermined on her capabilities to excel and be relevant in today’s time – be it at home or in society. Despite development, rural women still remain marginalised (even living in families) and can never break free from this cycle without proper guidance and help. In a study it was found that they lack four basic things which are essential to become independent: Knowledge, Finance, Power and Opportunity. Self-help groups fulfil the four criteria cited – thereby making women financially stable and empowered. The DBSSs in the rural communities are using this tool to empower women at both household and personal level.
Take for example Pinki Makhal from Khanberi village in Tahkurpukur Mahestola district in West Bengal who is running a successful poultry business in the village. Timid by nature, today she is a strong and vibrant lady who is helping other women in the village as well. But her situation was not always the same. At an early age of 19, she got married to Gopal Makhal of the same village. Post marriage, she started working as a daily wage agricultural labour on a pay of Rs. 150 per day. While her male counterparts received Rs. 200 for the same kind of labour. The total household income was around Rs. 6000 then. While on a visit, the DBSS Kolkata held a meeting in her village on benefits of SHG. Following that, Pinki along with 11 more women formed an SHG and named it “Alo” which means light in English. Through ‘Alo’ she received poultry chicken from the government and training on how to rear the chickens and keep it healthy. In 2013, she took a loan of Rs. 10,000/- from the bank through her SHG which she used to repair her house. In 2014 again she took another loan of Rs. 40,000/-from her SHG to start pisciculture business and presently owns a pond and does fish farming. Her fish business has given her good returns which she re-invested in her business. She also felt that her husband too should have a permanent job and helped him to get driving lessons to become a driver. Initially her husband used to drive a vehicle called as “chotahathi” (small tempo) owned by someone else. Thus, Pinki realised that this is not giving much yield to her and her husband so with the loan of Rs 75, 000 plus adding her savings of Rs 30,000 Pinki and her husband purchased their own second hand ChotaHathi. Within a span of two years Pinki repaid all the loans and with the profit and her savings Pinki finally bought a new matador. Now Pinki and her husband earn around Rs 22,000 a month. Pinki has built a pucca (permanent) house with a concrete roof. She is now leading a happy and dignified life.
SEDP Amritsar has also been helping women through SHGs in times of their need and trouble. Pinder Kaur is a member of Diamond SHG of village Dhanowa Kalan in Punjab. Her father-in-law used to run a Flour Mill (Atta Chakki) in the village. He fell ill and the family incurred a lot of expenses for his treatment. So much so that the family was under debt and had to close their Atta Chakki business. Her husband worked as a daily labourer earning meagre income by working not more than 20 days in a month. Their Atta Chakki remained close for five years. Then Diamond Self Help Group succeeded to get itself linked with the bank and Pinder got loan from the bank of Rs. 50,000/-. Her SHG contributed Rs. 2500/-. Pinder and her family were able to restart their Atta Chakki and are now paying back the loan to bank in instalments. After the revival of the Chakki, they now are able to earn Rs. 12,000 to 15000/- per month. The family is now happy after restoration of their business.
Thus through SHGs, the women have found a way to help their families for economic sufficiency and also utilize their skills. Transforming SHGs into small businesses requires a major role of the family and community. A little booster dose of capacity building programmes, coupled with vocational training, infusion of appropriate technology, skills and easier access to hassle free credit especially start-up capital apart from market facilitation can do a lot to transform SHGs into small enterprises.