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Social entrepreneurs of rural India

Feb 24, 2010

Representatives from the developing countries of Asia-Pacific region and Africa are attending the ongoing 10th Commonwealth India Small Business Competitiveness Development Programme in Jaipur. An insight into the successes of women’s self-help groups in livelihood generation activities has left the delegation highly impressed.

The rural women’s progressive march to shield their future was showcased during an exposure visit of the representatives from the Commonwealth countries to Jhund village in Bagru tehsil of Jaipur district, where the women’s self-help groups have taken up livelihood generation activities in a big way under the guidance of the Students’ Relief Society (SRS).

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The representatives, who are mainly entrepreneurs, businessmen, activists of non-government organisations and government officials from the developing countries of Asia-Pacific region and Africa, are attending the ongoing 10th Commonwealth India Small Business Competitiveness Development Programme in Jaipur.

Their field visit was organised to apprise them of the SHGs’ activities to access finances and technology.

SRS, working in 11 districts of Rajasthan, was selected to display the successful example of the role of NGOs and SHGs in generating sustainable employment, profit making and capacity enhancement of rural women in view of its track record of guiding women for formation of SHGs and taking up wide-ranging activities for bringing women to the mainstream of development.

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The SRS Director, Prem Narayan Sharma, interacting with the 30-odd representatives at the Government Upper Primary School in the small village, situated about 36 km from Jaipur, said the livelihood activities financed through micro-credits range from the artistic local handicraft and animal husbandry to the making of iron products and toys by Lohars.

Several members of women’s SHGs have opened local shops or dairies and are utilising loans for agricultural purposes, such as fertilisers and fodder for animals. SRS is also planning to up-scale livelihood activities in future, both in variety and in dimension.

There are nine women’s SHGs functioning in Jhund at present with the total membership of 137. There is a separate SHG for adolescent girls, known as Kishori Samooh. The SHGs operate their “micro bank” autonomously, making important decisions on their own about the recipients for lending of money and recovery process.

Shobha Gupta, SRS community mobiliser, disclosed to the visiting delegation that the SHG, Saraswati Samooh, which was formed in 1998 with an initial amount of Rs. 1,020/-, increased its assets to Rs. 32,796/- by December 2009, while its capital grew to Rs. 3.60 lakhs.

Shobha Gupta, educated upto fifth standard, said her SHG was engaged in Zari embroidery, locally known as Aari Tari Gota Kinari work. Each woman member has an income of Rs. 3,600/- per month. These BPL families belonging mainly to the Rajput community have also benefited from vocational training under the livelihood promotion programme. The savings and credit practices have enabled them to finance their long-wished and panned enterprises.

Naval Kunwar belonging to a traditional Rajput family has emerged as a role model for the families of Jhund village after she passed out tenth standard from the Government Secondary School in Bagru. Her mother, motivated by the members of Saraswati Samooh, encouraged her to continue her education against all odds and the young woman has succeeded in her educational pursuit.

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Sharma pointed out that a total of 1,836 women in 26 villages of Sanganer, Phagi and Dudu blocks of Jaipur district were presently involved in the SHG activities and their collective annual turnover was to the tune of Rs. 2.50 crores. The SHG network has deposits of Rs. 60 lakhs and institutional credit is being provided by several organisations.

The delegation’s members were highly impressed by the success of women’s SHGs and felt that this model should be replicated in other parts of the country as well as in other Commonwealth countries. The Commonwealth programme is being evaluated by the former civil servant, K. Roy Paul.

Selima Ahmad, president of Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was all praise for the initiatives taken by SHGs in Jhund. She said the micro-credit model evolved in her country by Nobel laureate Mohammed Yunus could be successfully replicated in social enterprises in India.

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