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SHGs transform lives of Dalit women

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ON THE PATH OF CHANGE: The governing body of the Ekta Mahila Okkuta, a federation of the self-help groups managed entirely by Dalit women, meeting at Taj Sultanpur in Gulbarga taluk.
ON THE PATH OF CHANGE: The governing body of the Ekta Mahila Okkuta, a federation of the self-help groups managed entirely by Dalit women, meeting at Taj Sultanpur in Gulbarga taluk.

T.V. Sivanandan

A small initiative gives dignity to oppressed groups

The movement was started by a woman 2003 in a colony

It slowly spread to 20 villages with 250 members

GULBARGA: A small initiative by a group of Dalit women of an obscure village Harsur in Gulbarga taluk has shown the world on how with little bit of commitment combined with strong will to survive and honesty can change the lives of the voiceless people, shunned by society because of their colour and caste, and economic independence.

Basically, these women are dependent for everything on others, particularly their drunkard husbands or the landlords belonging to the upper castes, were now free and lead a life of dignity, thanks to the thrift introduced in their life by an NGO which freed them from the grip of money lenders.

The Vidya Liberation Through Cultural Action (VLTCA), an NGO, helped Dalit women form self-help groups. The Swiss-based organisation HEKS provided the funds for all the activities of the VLTCA.

It was 48-year-old Heera Bai, a Dalit farmhand, took the initiative to form Panchasheela Mahila Abviruddi Sangha by persuading 20 other Dalit women in her colony in 2003.

Now, the movement has spread to seven more villages covering more than 250 Dalit women giving them a new avenue to lead a respectful life free from the loan burden and increased economic activity in their life.

Unlike other SHGs or Stree Shakti Groups in the district, the SHGs run by Dalit women does not depend on the Government for financial assistance not depend on the linkage with the nationalised and grameen banks for their economic activities.

The exclusive Dalit SHGs thrived on their own initiatives and savings, with little bit of initial help from the VLTCA for starting their activities.

The VLTCA had provided Rs. 2 lakh each for three years from 2003-04 to the Ekta Mahila Okkuta, a federation formed by 11 SHGs, on the condition that the combined savings of the SHGs should be Rs. 4.25 lakh in the first three years.

Besides meeting the challenge of achieving savings of Rs. 4.25 lakh, the economic activities of the SHGs using the funds available had resulted in the turnover of SHGs to more than Rs. 15 lakh now.

The federation formed by SHGs had representatives from all the 11 SHGs as governing body members and they elect office-bearers among themselves. Federation chairperson Sumitra, a Dalit woman representing the Jyothi Mahila Abviruddi Sangha in Taj Sultanpur, said: “Members of the SHGs are effectively free from the clutches of money lenders, gone are the days when we used to depend on private money lenders for meeting emergency medical treatments of our family members or paying the annual fee of our children.”

Loans

The federation sanctioned loans depending on the requirements of 11 SHGs from the funds pooled by SHGs in the federation at a simple interest rate and three times of loans, including domestic, individual and collective income generation loans were provided to members by SHGs.

These women who saved Rs. 10 a week all these years are proud owners of Rs. 6,250 in their accounts and this year they would be getting a dividend of Rs. 2,750 for all their efforts and thrift.

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