The work which i have been doing since the last eight months was on pre-formed Self-Help Groups. Until April 11th, i had never experienced and learned about the formation of new SHGs. My organization has been working in Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) but the model of working was to support SHPIs (Self Help Promoting Institutions) i.e the organizations working on women SHGs. Recently, we started our direct lending model in M.P too. To initiate the process we had to go to the field areas in a team and convince the women in the villages to form a savings group.
The work needed expertise, thus we were accompanied by our senior staffs from Maharashtra. My team comprised of seven women (4 experts from Maharashtra, 2 freshers and me) and one local male staff. We were assigned block Timarni of Harda district of M.P. Harda is one of the backward district of M.P. and comprises of huge population of tribal.
On our first day we went to a village Temagaon.There has been no arrangements of our boarding and lodging and we knew nothing and nobody from that place. We requested the ‘gram sarpanch’ to let us stay at the ‘gram panchayat’. After making some arrangements for ourselves we headed straight to the village. We were excited to learn about community mobilization, convincing women for the savings group. It was difficult in a dominated MFI region where the people has been grief-stricken to the heavy loans landed to them fraudulently. We started with PHC and after gaining the confidence of Asha didi about our work, we then approached Aanganwadi didi! They two play a pivotal role in mobilizing the women as they are closely associated with them. After the successful mobilization, we stared the meeting with a few rounds of bhajans and lok geets. It helped the women and us to break the ice and to create a friendly environment. This was followed with the sharing of experience of savings groups by our experts, importance of savings, and the role SHGs plays in enhancing women’s lives by empowering them.
The women has been reluctant at first because of the experiences that they withhold because of the MFIs. But, savings has been a key point to make them understand because women always practice it in there respective houses especially in the kitchen by hiding few rupees or coins inside the flour drums or under the mattress. Women understood the concept easily. What really became challenging was to convince their men! Men were adamant, they were reluctant of any change, and due to the patriarchal society prevalent in our country especially in the villages where women are not even allowed to walk freely in the village, it was a tough task to gain their confidence again. The same phenomenon was prevalent in most of the villages and manner of our group formation was similar. Women has been supportive in almost everywhere.
With the two rounds of meetings, the women became more confident and we were able to finalize the group.