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 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.