Rajasthan: From being confined in purdah indoors, women in Dholpur step out to set up small businesses
Gathering together under village organisations and federations, the women from the villages of Dholpur in Rajasthan, find financial independence, and along with it, their voice.
Manoj Choudhary 31 Oct 2022 6:22 AM GMT
Basai Nawab (Dholpur), Rajasthan
Women of Maloni Panwar and other villages in Dholpur district, Rajasthan have given up the purdah pratha (the practice of veiling themselves), if not literally, definitely metaphorically.
"Earlier, no one cared about my opinion nor did I have any say in making decisions about my children. But ever since I started an agriculture-based repairing unit in my village along with my husband, people talk to me and regard me with respect," Saroj Devi of Patikapura village in Dholpur district, told Gaon Connection.
Saroj took a loan of Rs 200,000 from a self-help group she belonged to in order to start her business. "I have a voice in my family now and I can afford to send my children to a good school," she said. And, she has discarded the tradition of the purdah.
That journey for many women in Dholpur, from being in purdah and confined indoors to crossing the threshold of their homes and earning a livelihood, has been because of the encouragement and support of the Nari Siksha Gram Sangthan Samiti, and such other village organisations (VOs) that is made up of representatives from women self-help groups of several villages in the district.
Most of the SHGs and the VOs came up in 2016. Now, the women from these villages step out boldly, deal with panchayat and district officials, handle financial transactions and run their businesses efficiently.
There are 31 village organisations such as the Nari Siksha Gram Sangthan Samiti of Maloni Panwar that form a federation at a cluster level. The federation — Saheli Pragati Mahila Sarvangeen Vikas Sahkari Samiti Limited — is based in Basai Nawab village in Saipau block, Dholpur.
There are 15 such federations in Dholpur district that work for women empowerment. The non-profit, Manjari Foundation monitors smooth functioning of federations, VOs and SHGs in the district.
Earning a living
Nari Siksha Gram Sangthan Samiti, established the dairy-based firm called Nari Siksha Dugdha Utpadan Udhyog in Maloni Panwar village. Over 60 women from the village now sell milk from their buffaloes to the Udyog. While earlier they earned no more than Rs 30 a litre for the milk, the Udyog gives them up to Rs 50 a litre depending on the fat content in the milk.
"Every day about 1,000 litres of milk are collected from several villages. Milk based products such as curd, ghee and paneer are also prepared at the Udhyog," Madhu Parmar, a member of Radha Mohan Bachat Samiti SHG in Maloni Panwar, told Gaon Connection.
According to her, both the milk and the finished products are then sent by public transport to Bijouli about 50 kms away and from there it is taken to other areas of Rajasthan. Around 60 women are associated with the firm and each of them earns over Rs 10,000 every month.
In 2016, Guddi Kumari, who sold milk for a living, joined the SHG and almost immediately applied for a loan of Rs 150,000 to get back 125 dismil of land that she had mortgaged. She took a further Rs 200,000 loan from the SHG to help send her children to school. She will repay the loan at 1.5 per cent interest.
For many women, the SHGs have opened up doors not just to financial independence, but also to literacy and self esteem. Lilawati who was unlettered has since learnt to read and write. "No one can cheat me now while doing business," she said with pride
Coming together for empowerment
"Ever since the inception of the SHGs in 2016, the Saheli federation has disbursed a loan amount of Rs 258,740,300 to the 5,435 women of the SHGs. The loan amounts have ranged from several hundred to as much as three lakh rupees [Rs 300,000]," Raveena Saimal of Nagala Harlal village and the manager of the Federation in Basai Nawab told Gaon Connection. The state government financially helps the federation with the members, the manager added.
"The Foundation has been guiding, coordinating, conducting training and ensuring marketing support to altogether 421 SHGs, 32 village organisations and 16 cluster level federations in Dholpur, since 2016," Rajni Kumari, project coordinator at Manjari Foundation, told Gaon Connection.
The 5,435 women members between the ages of 18 and 60 years benefit directly from the Saheli Federation, Saimal added.
The village organisations, the SHGs and the Federations are all run by women. There is now a Saheli supermarket with 12 shops in Basai Nawab, also owned and run by women.
Geeta of Badrika Village owns one of those shops where she sells garments. She opened the shop in April 2022 at the Saheli SuperMarket, employs local women to work there and has also bought herself a scooty to move around.
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Manjari Foundation has given an interest- free loan of Rs 25,000 to each of 72 women of different SHGs in Basai Nawab. The federation in Basai Nawab recovers about Rs 10 lakh every month by way of loan interest charges from beneficiaries, Rajni said.
Each woman is supposed to pay 1.5 per cent interest of the loan amount she has borrowed from her SHG. This loan recovery amount is being used to provide further loans to beneficiaries, without being depended on state government help.
Rakhi Parmar makes disposable paper plates for a living. The inhabitant of Donari village is also an executive member of cluster level federation in Basai Nawab. In 2016, she took a loan of Rs 3 Lakh from the SHG she was a member of, and is currently earning about Rs 20,000 a month.
"For me, one of the biggest changes in my life has been the fact that I do not have to practice purdah," she smiled. According to her, almost 70 per cent of the village women have stopped doing so.
Srimati Indoli of Kurendha village took a loan of a lakh of rupees to start making leaf plates on a machine. She earns upto Rs 15,000 a month and repaid the amount in the space of six months, she said. "I have a sound financial status now," she told Gaon Connection.
"Observing purdah is a choice. But most of us enjoy looking the world in the eye and breathing in fresh air and enjoying our identity. I know I speak for many women when I say that has happened only because we are financially independent," declared Madhu Parmar, member of the village organisation.