WHETHER IT is Sushila Bai of Saheli or Gunawati Bai of Sukhtawa or Shakeela Bi of Kesla villages in Hoshangabad district – all have one thing in common – they represent the symbol of women empowerment. A quintessence of social change, thanks to self-help groups (SHGs) being financed by the public sector banks.
However, credit goes to the State Bank of India (SBI) for maximum contribution in SHG linkage in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, with a total credit flow of Rs 70.48 crore.
SBI’s initiative in providing credit-linkage to more than 3.60 lakh SHG members, most of them women, has not only instilled confidence in them through self-employment but also brought a sense of empowerment.
When the country was worst-hit by fear psychosis due to bird flu, a poultry run by women SHGs at Kesla and Sukhtawa survived, despite a huge financial loss faced by major poultry owners in the State.
Without fearing the threat of bird flu, women members kept on with the work that resulted in a profit-making venture in the post-bird flu months.
Credit for this also goes to an NGO run by NCHSE in tribal areas, which motivated women to carry out poultry work at a lower cost without cowing down to fear.
Dharmendra Jat, project officer of the NGO, said that production cost came down from Rs 27 to Rs 15 during bird flu and SHGs got chicks at a lower price, which they purchased despite facing a loss of Rs 7,000 per member.
“However, as the dull phase was over chicks after rearing were sold out at market price, which in turn fetched each member a profit of Rs 25,000,” he added.
“State Bank of India’s financial assistance not only helped us to earn individually but to face our worst crisis with courage,” Sushila Bai of the Murgi Utpadan Ghar, a 12-member SHG, said.
“The best part of SHG functioning is marketing of its products unlike in the past,” Gunawati Bai said. Confidence due to empowerment is vivid on the faces of women SHG members.
The earning has helped them to run homes, provide education to children and prevent their husbands from drinking. Another glaring example of this was found at Sukhtawa, where a group of 60 women adopted a strong stand through agitation against irregularities in the local Public Distribution System in July.
SBI has financed over 300 SHGs in Kesla block of which more than 90 per cent belong to women. “We provide Rs 2 to 5 lakh towards project financing and maximum cases are related to poultry. Total financing by this branch has been to the tune of Rs 72 lakh,” SBI’s Kesla branch manager said.
The bank branch, which covers 54 villages, also provides credit linkage for goat rearing, cow-buffalo dairy, traditional farming in tribal areas and tractors.
“We started with 10 members contributing Rs 10 per month in 2000. We take mango trees on lease and make dry mango powder, pickles etc and sell it at the City mandi. Today, the per member income ranges from Rs 1000-1500,” Shakeela Bi of the Bharatiya Mahila Bachhat Samuha said.
The formation of SHGs has helped villagers to break away from the shackles of moneylenders. Going a step further, women SHGs have repaid their loans in just three years instead of the stipulated five-year period.
“We are now thinking of making women members our recovery agents in these areas,” the branch manager said. The bank-SHG linkage has also generated a sense of collective decision-making among the women of the backward tribal belts.