When Your Group Becomes Your Family
Dulur Hansda shares her painful story with tears in her eyes: “When my children were small, I did housework in exchange for food – but it was never enough. I didn’t receive wages for the days I worked. I mortgaged my land and migrated to Burdwan for agricultural day labor. My children and I went to sleep hungry. It became so unbearable that my son died because he didn’t have enough to eat. No one I know has experienced my pain.”
“After joining the Sardar Mohila Mandal Self Help Group (SHG) three years ago, and with training from NEEDS field staff, I have managed to take my mortgaged land back and cultivate it.”
“My husband is elderly [over 60] and unable to contribute to the family income, so I do it on my own with support from my SHG. I have managed to slowly pay back any loans I have taken from the group and have earned 30,000 INR ($500). Now my children and I never go to sleep hungry and I am earning enough to send them to school. I plan to construct a brick house instead of the mud house we live in. I would also like more training on vegetable cultivation so I can lease land to grow more products,” she says.
Three years ago, Dulur would not have felt comfortable speaking in front of her SHG, but today she is confident and outspoken. Before joining Trickle Up, the members of Sardar Mohila Mandal SHG were strangers in their small village of Kukudaba in Pakur, Jharkhand, India. Another member Dehna Dudu says they knew of one other, but never interacted.
Since forming the group three years ago, the women have become a family, supporting one another in all aspects of their lives.
When Dehna tried to enroll her son in a government school, she was rejected because she didn’t have the necessary proof of identity. Her group members successfully vouched for her. Having a group of women backing her has made Dehna more confident and empowered.
When NEEDS told the group how to access a government program that provides pensions to widows, Dehna went to the Block government office with two other widows and managed to secure their pensions. Dehna was recently elected to represent her SHG in a Village Organization made up of ten other SHGs who act collectively to advocate for the ~200 women they represent.
The women of Sardar Mohila Mandal SHG stand up for each other.
When one group member was building a house with her husband, the couple went to the forest to collect mud. She was hungry and wanted to rest. Her husband got angry and hit her so she fled to her mother’s home. The group heard what happened from someone else in the village and all of them went to the husband to reprimand him. He acknowledged that he behaved badly and asked his wife to return. Though she hadn’t asked for their help, the women of Sardar Mohila Mandal took initiative to support their fellow member.
Savings groups like Sardar Mohila Mandal SHG provide a safe space for women to build a support system and learn about topics like health, education, and access to relevant government services. Together, they often take greater roles in household decision-making and advocate for community improvements. While Trickle Up’s program is 18 to 36-months, savings groups have a truly sustainable, long-lasting impact.
Sardar Mohila Mandal SHG of Kukudaba, Jharkhand, India
Supporting each other, taking initiative, empowering one another