Communities, particularly women living in rural areas, often face food crises which subsequently lead to malnutrition and other disorders. Typically, the income from small landholdings and agricultural harvests lasts only for six months. After this, farmers have to search for other alternatives which barely meet their family’s expenses.
But the situation is different for the women at Lapanga Block in the district of Sambalpur in Odisha. With the support from Aditya Birla Group Company, Aditya Aluminium, 76 SHGs have been formed of 831 members who are an example of what women can do to make their lives more liveable.
Out of the 76 SHGs, 25 with around 250 members on board are directly into income generating activities (IGAs), with the rest playing the role of sheet anchor by encouraging the womenfolk to come to mainstream through counselling, on regular meeting, regular saving, regular inter loaning, financial inclusion which too qualify them to avail the benefits of other Government schemes too.
Now, these 250 women are directly engaged in various income generation activities like phenyl, hand-wash, Ujala preparation, detergent making, turmeric processing, paper bag making, grass hand-craft, leaf plate making, Tailoring, nursery development, Poultry, Goatery, Pisciculture and mushroom cultivation etc.
Through these now, they are earning approximately 5000/- per month on an average. In the process, the underprivileged women have now become financially more empowered, earning respect in the local community and society as well.
JaiminiKissan, Secretary, Maa Saraswati SHG, Lapanga, is visibly pleased. “I have been associated with the SHG for the last 5 years through ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services). When Aditya Aluminium started hand-holding us, our meetings became regular and we got to know about government schemes. We were told about different IGAs, and as a group, we opted for mushroom cultivation,” she says.
Their efforts have borne fruit – quite literally. “Dhingri mushroom was not a common IGA and initially, we were a little sceptical. But with a cost of Rs 1,300, we have made nearly Rs 6,500 in two months. We are very happy,” she says further.
Kailash Pandey, the President and Unit Head of Aditya Aluminium, talks about their dignity. “We are concerned about the welfare of women from this region and by promoting the SHGs, we want to imbibe a sense of entrepreneurship and independence so that they can live with pride and dignity,” says Pandey.
“We have seen visible progress in this regard in Rengali block. Along with promoting SHGs, we are empowering women to become entrepreneurs by helping them start independent businesses such as phenyl production, poultry farming and tailoring,”. We will add many more activities in the days to come and the endeavour will be to “position the woman in the house as an important earning member of the family” he adds.
“Aditya Aluminium is supporting Mission Shakti SHGs and facilitating registration of new SHGs under Mission Shakti. Income generation activities like mushroom cultivation are commendable as it is a low cost, high return initiative within a short span of time. We look forward to maximization of outreach of government schemes to SHGs and work together for benefit of the marginalised women,” says Darshana Ekka, Child Development Project Officer (CDPO), Rengali.
Ekka’s confidence is not out of place. After all, these women have not just become financially independent, but also made their lives better.