On 1st August, I started working as a fellow in Samarthan Centre for Development Support, Madhya Pradesh. I had never been to this place before. Before leaving, our co-ordinator had said that we would not find any rain in MP. But I thought that I was very lucky to see it on the very first day. I reached my office after getting wet in the rain, the office is on the first floor of a small mansion located on the “Ganesh Temple Mod” which is the only famous place in Sehore. There were around 15 people working together as a family. I didn’t expect such type of an environment before committing myself to the social sector. It was undoubtedly a nice start. My new colleagues were more than happy to make me learn different aspects of their organisation and making my learning experience more enriching.
My host organisation has been working for several years in the villages of Sehore for the betterment of the S.C/S.T women by forming Self Help Groups (SHGs) or Swayam Sahayta Samuh. As a first field visit, I visited Dhaboti village on the very next day, which is 10 km away from the city and is the nearest field area. The view on the way was so mesmerizing that no one would want the road journey to end. There were lakes, mountains and greenery all over.
When I reached Dhaboti, I came across two SHGs named Vaishnavi Jalgrahan Swayam Sahayta Samuh and Radhika Jalgrahan Swayam Sahayta Samuh. I conducted a short focussed group discussion (FGD). The main purpose of forming these SHGs was to strengthen the role of women in the integrated development of the society through financial inclusion. These SHGs are engaged in various livelihood related activities like goat rearing and vegetable cultivation. These activities help in making them self-sufficient so that they can manage to work for themselves and at the same time save money.
There were a total of 21 women – 10 and 11 members respectively. There were positions allotted in the group members’ i.e President and Secretary so that there will be proper functioning within. They conduct regular meetings and keep the record for all financial transactions conducted by the group. They also maintain the records of the loan given to the group members. The women in these groups don’t have any formal education but they were literate enough to sign and read a bit. The selection of the President and Secretary, as they explained, also depends on the ability of the women to read and write, so that they can provide their group members all the information given to them regarding various govt. schemes. I observed that the women were aware of all the schemes and well aware of the concept of SHGs.
Each member of the group has a bank account and also has a Bima policy (Insurance) under the Social Security Scheme which is the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Yojana. In this scheme, each member pays 12/- per month. In a case of any accidental death, the women’s family gets up to 2 lakhs rupees as claim fund, and Samarthan has worked as a bridge in providing the required information to these groups. As groups, these women are helping each other in time of need by providing financial support whenever needed. If any of the members takes a loan from the group, every group member is informed beforehand, so that there will be transparency and trust in the group.
“Me sab mahilaaon ko bula lati hun jaise hi mujhe phone aata hai meeting ke liye, meeting karna humare samuh ke lie bohot zaruri hai, jisse ki hum sara hisab ache se rakh pate hai aur sabko sari soochna bhi mil jati hai ke samuh ke ander kya chal raha hai” – Rajkumar Bai (President of the Group)
These women in Dhaboti village also selected beneficiaries who don’t have toilet facilities in their houses with the support of Panchayat, took loans from SHG groups through Samarthan and the revolving funds are provided by other funding agencies to build toilets in each house. Once they build the toilets, they get the motivational amount from the government under Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan, and that’s how they return the loan. They worked so hard that they made their village Open Defecation Free (OFD). Now there is not even a single person who defecates outside in the village. Women from this village made this happen by stopping people in the morning to not to defecate outside by doing morning follow-ups with Samarthan volunteers, school children, PRI member etc. SHG women actively participated in many development activities in the village. They feel proud to be a part of the group and have some basic knowledge about finance and management.
While coming back from the village, I had a better understanding towards the SHGs and the way these groups function after meeting such a vibrant group of women who gained proper knowledge of what they are doing and are passionate and hard working towards their own betterment. On that day I learnt one thing that if we provide proper information to the unidentified communities and outreach them, they can also do much better in their lives.
“Because one believe in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” ― Lao Tzu
The undulated road, the excitement, the nearest village, and women…
Your blog reminded me of my initial days as a fellow. Thank you for summarizing it all so simply. I loved it
Thank you Himanshi 😊
Its well written … you guys are good writers and even better learners. It took me a long tome to understand SHGs. This is a good article Sanjana.
😁 its good to hear your views. Thanks again 😊 and I will not mind if you will send me a gift too😜🙈