Self Help

Self-help groups empowering women in rural Uttarakhand

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Dehradun: With limited earning opportunities, especially for women in the hills, the emergence of self-help groups have come as a major financial respite. Though the amount earned through the collective efforts of the group is not a big one, women are enjoying the work for the learning experience as well as the quality time spend together.
In times of emergency, the self-help groups are even providing small loans on a mere 2% interest to the women members and at times to outsiders too.

Pushpa Chauhan, the gram Pradhan of Ganeshpur village in Uttarkashi district, is among the pioneers who have brought women together to work under a common platform. “It is not only about earning. The profit may range between Rs 1,000 and Rs 4,000 per month but women — in addition to their farming skills — are learning stitching, weaving and making juices from locally grown products. For few hours of working for a period of 7 days in a month, the women associated with the groups are getting a decent amount. It has given them respect and increased their say in family matters,” Chauhan said.

Under her guidance the first self-help group in Ganeshpur village was formed in 2011. In 2018, the number of such women groups has gone up to 15 with each having 10 to 15 members. Majority of the women in this village are associated with some self-help group or the other.

Undaei Rana, who heads the Vinayak Samooh, said that different groups have distributed work among themselves. “While some are stitching clothes for school students, others are involved in selling spices and food products,” she added.

Rana pointed out that on an average a woman worked in a group for a period of a week in a month. “After completing household work, we get together, complete the work and even take the products to the local market,” she said, adding that owing to the success of the women self-help groups, the male members of the family have also become encouraging.
In another success story, women self-help groups near Badrinath temple in Chamoli district have become famous by preparing Prasad with locally grown products such as Chaulai and selling them at the revered shrine.
With a total earning of Rs 18 lakh, these women have clocked a profit of Rs 10 lakh. Taking into account the success of the project, the state government has offered its assistance to help women self-help groups get shops near 625 temples in Uttarakhand.
Laxmi Rawat, who is a member of women self-help group in Paini, Chamoli, said that the initiative has not only provided employment to rural women but also improved their financial status. “Each of us have got a profit between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000, which is a very good amount keeping in mind the short duration of work put in for the process,” she said.

For Rekha Negi, associated with a self-help group of Rudraprayag, working in the group was a “welcome break from her hectic schedule.” Working in a collective manner has helped Negi realise the significance of unity.

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