215 Self Help Groups now linked with banks and commercial markets
India CSR News Network
UDAIPUR: The journey begins to a rural road in a village in district Chittorgarh of Rajasthan, away from the national highway, searching for a house that is known for running one of the most successful self-help groups in the district. Passing through small lanes and muddy roads, children playing around, we reach a house, the house of Chanchal Pareekh. Head of a Self Help Group (SHG) “Shiv Shankar Sahayata Samooh’, dressed in traditional attire, surrounded by about 15 rural women of the same village, into some discussion, relating to products designing and demands in the market, here we could see a glimpse of a real ‘rural women entrepreneur’. Chanchal Pareekh, who is also today the Ward Panch of village Ganeshpura, district Chittorgarh, Rajasthan.
Not just Chanchal Pareekh, we could see as many women entrepreneurs working towards their socio-economic independence and support to their families. Here was an example of how rural women are replicating the success of urban women, who are not just restricted to their homes.
Rajasthan, known for colourful apparels, bandhani-bandhej, traditional handicrafts, heavy jewellery and various art forms, has been a major attraction for traditional art lovers. People cover large distances from India and abroad to reach remote Rajasthan villages to admire the skills of these rural women.
To up bring the socio economic conditions of these women and to also sustain the traditional art of Rajasthan, it was important to organize these women into a Self Help Group, popularly known as SHG which is normally a group of 10-15 women.
The journey of forming SHG was never easy. More than convincing the women, the daunting task was to approach their families for all traditional reasons and household commitments. It was difficult to break the myth that these women were potentially capable of being an entrepreneur, if given proper guidance and training. Families finally agreed with the belief that women of their houses would bring socio-economic independence.
Another challenge was now to bring rural women of different potential and temperament into one SHG and training them at par in different skills. This was essential to meet the objective of forming and making an SHG successful.
The SHG formation has importantly also encouraged the habit of thrift savings amongst these women, who have used this money for buying raw materials to make the products.
Pushpa Sharma, a member of “Saraswati SHG” is now confident enough to deal with banks independently on behalf of the group. Jyoti Pareekh, another member is happy to support her family financially. Saroj Devi, a trainer, is expert in dealing with the market and product development as per demand. Seeta Devi’s family never believed on her present success and admires her financial support to the family.
It is astonishing to know that in Rajasthan, where population of male & female are almost equal, the literacy rate in females is as low as about 53%. With such literacy rate, it becomes imperative to make these women literate so to be more socio-economically empowered.
Hindustan Zinc, a company of Vedanta Group, has by now formed 215 such Self Help Groups in Rajasthan bringing together almost 3700 women and developing them into “Women Entrepreneurs”. The company has been providing them various skill based trainings in handicrafts, tie & dye, bags, cushion covers & bed-sheets, quilts, rakhi & bangle making, block printing, zardozi, terracotta products, imitation jewellery, tailoring to name a few and also organizing regular ‘Adult Literacy Camps’.
It was indeed an unforgettable journey, though traveled alone, but bringing back the memories of the warmthness and simplicity of these women entrepreneurs in the form of their handmade crafts.