Sewa International’s endeavors in Uttarakhand began precisely with the objective of rehabilitation of these village folk and the local population of the mountains. The vision and objective of our program there, is rehabilitation of the local population after the tragedy that stuck Uttarakhand in 2013. The objective being to provide them sustainable means of livelihood leading to socio-economic prosperity. 

The cradle of our rehabilitation program in Uttarakhand is Sewa Kaushal Vikas Kendra (SKVK), which is further split into 6 specialised constituents dealing with different aspects of the rehabilitation. Following are the 6 verticals under which the SKVK project functions in Uttarakhand.

  1. Sewa Srujan
  2. Sewa Krishi
  3. Sewa Mahila Jyoti
  4. Sewa Yuva Jyoti
  5. Sewa Saahas
  6. Swasthya Sahyogi Sewa

The article aims at giving a view of the day to day activities of the SHG and the process followed to mobilise villagers and form more SHGs, how strengthening SHGs would help us with our larger objective of forming a Farmer Producer Organisation in the coming future.

SHG FORMATION PROCESS

The SHG formation process is a series of numerous meetings and research regarding the demography and socio economic condition of the area in question and involves a series of steps.

COLLECTING INFORMATION

  1. The team members begin by collecting information about the target village. The information includes the credit needs and the analysis of the sources of credit, its income and seasonality.
  2. The next step is the Socio-Economic Resource Mapping which includes mapping the availability of natural resources, the location of households, location of drinking water facilities, grazing land, cultivable land, forest etc.
  3. The information regarding the existing skill set of the population and the markets existing forms the next important link in ascertaining the further course of action.
  4. Since it is the people themselves who have to drive the change their perceptions are taken into consideration. By means of questionnaires, surveys they are asked questions regarding their perception of poverty. Questions asked to include their views on how best the resources can be used to improve their financial condition.

MEETINGS AND MOBILIZATION

Next follows a series of meetings over a span of weeks in which following pointers are discussed with the men and women of the village.

  1. First and foremost the purpose of the organisation is explained to them. This is done to build trust with the beneficiaries and the people.                                  
  2. The subsequent meetings lay out various agendas and plans that have to be followed up during forthcoming sessions.There are intensive talks and discussions about community issues, about saving and lending processes in the village
  3. Further the concept of SHGs is explained to the villagers. The rules and regulation of the group, the books that need to be maintained are also discussed at length with the members.
  4. Next, the representatives of the group are elected and their members are explained the roles and responsibilities.
  5. The group is then given a Group Name and subsequently Bank Account of that particular SHG is opened in the nearby branch.

WORKING AND OPERATIONS

Apart from the monthly meetings at the end, the daily ongoing activities by the members include the following

  1. Regular, weekly meetings, where members are encouraged to not only save, but to also start lending to their members for both productive and consumption purpose.
  2. Time to time assistance is provided to women to manage record keeping books and inventories of the various activities in their respective groups.
  3. Common Action Plans are organised on a day to day basis to increase the engagement of members and to invoke a spirit of collective conscience in them. The activities under these common action plans includes Tree Plantations, Cleaning Drives, Health Programmes etc which are generally organised with the help of villagers and the SHG groups.
  4. Bankers, Government Officials from Other Departments like KVIC, Health, Agriculture, BDO,Soil Conservation are invited periodically to interact with the Self help groups and organize a meeting. This provides a better perspective to the members, helps them incorporate the modern methods of saving, capital generation and business development .
  5. Training Programmes are organised for the groups for their capacity building. The trainings aim at acquainting the members with the concept of SHG, decision making in the group, conflict resolution and imaparting leadership training.
  6. Skill development trainings form an important part of the SHG working. Skills imparted involve knitting, basket weaving etc.

MONTHLY MEETING PROCESS FOR SHGs

The end of the month is usually a hustle bustle. With all the SHG incharges coming over from different clusters and gathering in the Simli office the place comes to life. For me, it was a palette of painted colours in the office walls. With almost 30-40 women dressed in their traditional attires, moving around carrying a bag, their office documents, addressing the rest of the team,  the sight in itself is empowering. You see that’s what women can do to anything they lay their hands upon. Turn it colourful, make it creative, break the rut and monotony, infuse humour into an otherwise boring process. If only, they are given the opportunity, the confidence to learn , to experiment and to achieve. If they are not tied to tradition, bound by expectations and limited by norms we can create more self driven women leaders and entrepreneurs.

  • Review Of Monthly Activities – The meeting starts with the review of monthly activities of the past month. The SHG Sachiv, Community resource person, and the community facilitators are generally the ones responsible for mobilization of the villagers and forming new SHGs. The work done by them over the month includes mobilization of villagers for forming groups and then subsequently clusters as per the targets that are given to them. These clusters are developed after previously conducted surveys. The account opening of the SHGs is also monitored and reviewed. It was generally observed that after 2 years of continuous involvement in the process the women have now become enthusiastic and confident in their overall personality. They understand the formal processes of banking, SHG model, and entrepreneurship which has given them great self-confidence.
  • Reporting And Documentation – The minutes of the meeting are simultaneously jotted down during the meeting. The documentation includes that of updating the numbers. The new SHGs formed, the quantity of harvest produced and collected, the revenue generated by various ventures, the nonfarm based activity revenue, all of the data is updated for further record keeping and formations of new policy plans and analysis.
  • Requirements Asked – The staff then asks the incharges regarding their various needs and requirements for effective functioning of the SHGs . These requirements may vary from sector to sector. For eg, the Sewa Krishi SHGs would generally require better equipments for their farm driven needs like arranging new drums, motors, PVC pipes, pipe pointers , jet sprayers, fertilisers etc. The Non Farm based SHGs would generally require new machinery, better intervention in the market to be able to sell the products.
  • Planning for the next month –  This process mostly involves setting new goals ,  briefings and discussions over the next agenda. The new targets are given to the members. The targets generally revolve around SHG formation, federation formation, account opening of the new SHGs, federation linkage to the banks, mobilisation of the community, Board Of Directors document collection for the Producer organisation( Him Sampada), selection of model farms and collection of share money from the SHG members.

SHG Trainings And Orientations

My first contact with the members of SKVK  was the 2 day leadership training program of the Sewa Mahila Jyoti group that I witnessed. Far beyond the the hue and cry of strong, independent women, the raging debates of women empowerment , were these women. In the entirety of their  lives they would have lived in and around the same village, surrounded by the high rise Himalayas, with their lives running in circles around their families and fields. With the SKVK project, while they came together, interacted for the first time , not in the gossip groups but sitting in a well furnished room , on chairs and tables, with boards and computers and projectors, it’s a new world indeed. Seeing them come up, shedding away the shyness, the hesitant voices was an interesting experience in itself. The training session encompassed a holistic learning model. The focus remains on developing the core competencies of the women namely communication skills to make them efficient motivators, equipping them with the knowledge of the subject technical knowhow and resourcefulness.  

From musical chairs to ball passing games, the training is as innovative, as engaging as it can get. For a moment it seemed surreal. And why won’t it?

In a society where somehow awkwardly, young women start confining themselves indoors after adulthood, these activities bring them face to face with the child inside them, invoking in them a sense of confidence and self-expression. The activities are aimed at inculcating values such as leadership skills, performing in a team, communication skills and interpersonal skills. 

Any social sector organization’s success ultimately lies to what extent it is able to make the beneficiaries independent of the organization and also self-sustainable. With the work being done in Uttarakhand we are hopeful and positive that from every family and from every woman will emerge a leader capable enough to hold the reigns of not just their family, but also the community as a large. We also believe that economic prosperity shall go a long way in uplifting the other standards of human development such as health, education and eventually culture. We would be happy to receive as many suggestions, inputs, and insights from our readers, donors, stakeholders, and citizens, in general, hoping that you would share with us the best practices that can help us build a better society together.