India Interior

The sisterhood of self-made wealth

SWAPNA MAJUMDAR | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 02, 2016

PHOOLMATI DEVI, Block president of 100 SHGs

SHGs pave the road to financial independence in UP villages

Three years ago, Simrikha Devi’s eightyear-old son made an unusual request. He asked for hundred rupees to buy biscuits,knowing well that his mother, a daily wager, would have to scrounge for the money. Although she was taken aback, Simrikha gave him the money.

Her curiosity grew further when he returned with a bag of biscuit packets and began hawking them outside their one-room thatched hut in Mishrauli village, in Uttar Pradesh. Finally, when he handed her ₹170 at the end of the day, almost twice the amount he had taken from her, Simrikha was stunned. Inspired by the young boy’s business acumen, Simrikha decided to take a loan and start her own business. She began with a loan of ₹500 from her selfhelp group and now earns a profit of ₹500 a day from her small shop in Seorahi block in district Kushinagar. This leap from a hand-to-mouth existence has helped her send her three children to private schools, build a pucca tworoom house and become a role model in her community.

This turnaround in fortunes would not have been possible had the uneducated Simrikha not been part of a women’s collective.

Formed with the help of the not-forprofit Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Pariyojana (RGMVP), the Archana SHG has wrought economic and social changes for its 12 members, who are Dalits. “My SHG proved to bemy lifeline,” said Simrikha.

Freed from the worries of a hounding moneylender, Simrikha slowly increased the quantum of her loans. Eight months ago, she borrowed ₹30,000 and expanded her shop.

“Without the financial training from RGMVP, this would not have been possible,” said Simrikha.

Around the same time, transformation of another kind was taking place in Nebua Naurangia, a remote block in the same district, for another Dalit woman.

Phoolmati Devi, who joined an SHG formed by RGMVP in 2014, rose within a year to become the block president of 100 SHGs, each with 10-15 women. “This elevation was the outcome of her leadership qualities and determination to help other women. The collectives elect their own leader in a democratic and transparent process,” said Ram Sewak, an RGMVP field officer.

It was Sewak who first spotted Phoolmati’s potential and nominated her for the leadership training organised by RGMVP. The 34-year-old Phoolmati has since facilitated the formation of over 50 SHGs in the block.

It is not hard to see why the ever-smiling Phoolmati is so popular.

She never says ‘no’, even if it means walking 6-7 km to lead an agitation by an SHG against alcohol bhattis, or for employment under MGNREGA or getting a road made. Her talent in composing and singing motivational songs has fired up the women to continue their struggle for their rights. “I don’t know how I do it. When I see injustice, I cannot keep quiet,” said the loquacious Phoolmati.

Such is her self-confidence that she has no hesitation in calling the district superintendent of police whenever she needs police help. This has often been a game changer for the women.

Phoolmati has brought changes even in her personal life. Her husband, who once tried to abandon her, is now an ardent supporter. “He even cooks the meals and looks after the children while I am away conducting meetings,” said a proud Phoolmati.



The writer is a Delhi-based journalist

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Published on December 02, 2016
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