This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by GOUTAM KUMAR MAHANTY. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Story Of The Tribal Woman Who Started The First E-Governance Centre In Her Village


Thethaitanger is a small block in the Simdega district of Jharkhand in South Chotanagpur Division. One of the red corridors of the Naxal movement, this poor tribal belt has very limited access to the global market and has minimal knowledge about the outer world. Here, most of the populations belong to the tribal community as similar to the region Santhal Pargana in Jharkhand. It is also from my observation while men and women are primarily engaging in seasonal migrations to the cities for livelihoods.

Adivasi migrant workers form a significant reserve army of cheap labour feeding into agricultural farms, factories and construction industry across the country. Due to factors like deforestation, failing agriculture and development induced displacement, seasonal migration has evolved as the dominant livelihood strategy among Adivasis, and household studies (David Mosse,2005) say more than 80% of Adivasi household income comes through migration.       

Life for the 37-years-old first graduate tribal woman, namely Poonam Didi (Poonam Surin), a resident of Gargarbahar, a tiny village in Thethaitanger block of Simdega district in Jharkhand has never been easy. Born in a tribal family with the nature of social worker, after completion of her graduation, un-willingly she left her education as she knotted with her family’s financial crisis. After a few years, she got married, and now she lives with her husband.

Having the nature of social work by birth, and being an educated tribal woman, she started tuition classes for school-goers. As she used to farm along with her husband on their small piece of land to earn for their livings. Stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty, circumstances induced her to mortgage her one acre of land, which was a significant source of her income for her family. Her hard life took a turn after she became a part of a self- help group, namely Gulab SHG. Being a part of the self- help group enabled her to take loans which easily allowed her to meet the essential needs of her family.

She was able to take back her mortgaged land, with the help of financial support which was provided by her self- help group. Looking at her achievements and considering her determination, will power, she became the president of her self- help group, president of her village organization, president of the Thethaitanger cluster level federation and finally, when Block Resource Centre for enterprise promotion (BRC-EP) was established under Startup Village Entrepreneurship Program (SVEP), she was chosen as a president of BRC-EP.

JSLPS (Jharkhand-SRLM) conducted meetings in different villages explaining the entire process and concept of formation and functioning of Self-help groups. Poonam didi says, “After I attended the meeting and saw the different activities which are being carried by JSLPS being conducted in my village Gargarbahar, I felt extremely motivated and took inspiration from the other self- help groups and formed my own Gulab self –help group along with the other women in my village.

After being a part of the self- help group, I started saving money weekly and was able to fulfil my family needs with the help of the big and small loans which I got. Also, with the cooperation and consent of all the members of my self- help group, I was made the president of my self- help group. After the formation of Village organization, was made the president and at cluster level federation, was made the president too.”

She is also delighted as with the help of the cluster level federation, the process of setting up a training centre in her village is taking place.

She took a loan which she used in getting her land de-mortgaged, paying back her debts, paying her children’s school fees, buying inputs to work on her field and to meet the day- day requirements of her families. Attending the different training sessions being conducted by EDII, Ahmedabad under SVEP empowered her in a way and she started providing training and empowering other women in various domains like General Awareness Training, Business Motivational Training, Entrepreneurship Development, marketing, formation of enterprises, financial management and women empowerment. She has not only provided training to other women in her district but has also travelled to several other districts intending to provide training as well.

In 2017-18 when the officers from Reserve Bank of India came to visit the SHGs as well as villages, she took the lead role to visit. In 2018, she was selected as a Banking Correspondence from Thethaitanger Panchayat. She started the first Grahak Seva Kendra in the area with all e-governance services for the villagers with the facilities like money remittances, the opening of bank accounts, awareness on Jan Dhan Yojna, enrolment of Pan Cards, enrolment and correction of Aadhar Cards, government insurance, awareness on savings, digital India, PMAY, etc. and gradually, she started to learn computers and prepare for the IIBF’s exam. Now she has become the IIBF’s certified Banking Correspondence in her Panchayat.

She says proudly, “Being a banking correspondence and master trainer and with the help of SVEP and the activities which I carry, it fetches me an annual income of amount around three lakhs rupees. Being a part of the self- help group has not only made me financially strong but has also boosted my self- confidence. The financial stability which I have attained after being a part of the self- help group, has only entrusted me to come out of my worse condition. I have earned respect in my community and have also started to learn again.”

I can paint a bright picture of the future of my children, turning the blurred, faint picture of their future, which was before, only because of the support from my self- help group”, says Poonam didi gladly.

Apart from this, she has also worked on several social issues which are described below.

  • She has been very active in ensuring clean surroundings in her village to maintain good hygiene among her community members. She has also encouraged them to build toilets. Apart from this, she has also provided assistance and motivated people of her community to get an Aadhar card made, ration card, etc. She has played a very crucial role in persuading women to be part of different programs and policies formulated by Government which include Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, pension scheme, etc., and to come forward and be active and responsible beneficiaries of these policies.
  • As described above, she has been convincing women for menstruation health by creating awareness and has been emphasizing the need for having a safe and healthy body and periods. She has also been questioning stereotypes in her Adivasi community and taboos associated with menstruation by drawing the attention of the women in her village towards the benefits of sanitary napkin and promotion of sanitary napkins to the women publicly which can play a very important role in breaking the barriers of superstition among her Adivasi community members. As a result, there is a large number of women both married- unmarried, young and old who have started using sanitary napkins and maintaining good hygiene. Her major contribution has also been in carrying out the process of ending open defecation in her entire village through the usage of toilets.
  • She has also willingly come forward to deal with domestic violence issues that are happening in her village. One of the women of her self- help group was being beaten and abused by her husband when she often used to come for attending her self- help group’s weekly meetings. As a result, she along with the other self- help group members went and convinced her husband to send her in all the meetings and not to misbehave with her. Now, the woman is a happy self- help group member who is attending all the self- help group meetings without any distress or inconvenience caused by her husband.

She says, “My journey with self- help group has not ended with my empowerment. The way I have been able to break free from the clutches of poverty, I wish every other woman can do so. And I have promised myself to help every other woman in this process. And with the help of self- help group and village organization, I feel happy that I have been able to do so. The pleasure of being a self- dependent women is something different. The women in my village have been able to become so with the help of self- help group and village organization and are leading a life full of contentment.”

This story explains the will power and struggle of women in rural India who want to break away from the clutches of the distress faced their families due to poverty by taking help through self- help groups. It rightly explains the power of rural empowered women. Pooja she has been successfully defying and negotiating the power structure that a woman is subjected to. Also, occupying positions in self- help group, village organization cluster level federation and Block Resource Centre for enterprise promotion has provided her with an authority to exercise.

You must be to comment.


Similar Posts

By Charkha features

By Nandini Singh

By Amritansh pratap

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below