Friday, August 21, 2009

We can and we will!

When Mr. Gandhi walked into the hall the eagerly waiting members of the Self Help Groups (SHG) broke into a thundering applause as they greeted him with much affection and joy.

The meeting was held to find and formulate, pro-poor environment and CRP strategies to empower the lower sections of rural society, and to facilitate social mobilization and community participation.

Members of the SHGs case studies of the SHG’s influence in their lives, and the change and opportunities it now presented them. They explained the SHG’s roles in alleviating the hardships of the poor, and stressed the need for SHGs and similar projects. They all expressed their gratitude for their achievements, confidence, and new found awareness.

In his speech Mr. Gandhi explained vision for development in UP, with women playing an instrumental role in it. Seeing SHGs as the key to empowering women, he stressed that it was time to bring women into the mainstream of development. Viewing the SHG movement as an exciting change, and with the success it achieved in Andhra Pradesh, he expressed his confidence of similar success in UP. He pointed to the already improved conditions of women in Raibareli and Sultanpur, and hoped all of UP would follow their example. Encouraged by his motivating talk the women were specially moved when he joined them on the floor of the house rejected the elevated podium to explain his views and ideas.

In response to all the encouragement that they received the women promised to spread the SHGs to the entire nation.

“We can and we will” the hall echoed as faces smiled one and all.

Mr. Rahul Gandhi inaugurating a Mobile Micro Credit Van from the BUPGB that would take the bank to village thereby facilitating growth and development.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The eleventh of august, 2009, will be remembered in Tala Gopalpur(village) of Rahi block. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi visited them, and the women of the SHG welcomed her, and told them their stories. Of how they went from being dependent, and hapless, to confident, and a force of change, and empowerment. They told her, about life before SHG when no one would come forward to help them, and they had no voice. They couldnt tend their families well, and were frustrated.
They put up a little skit, depicting the hardships of women in rural India. They told Mrs. Gandhi about the several bondages that women have to suffer: a women can’t speak, she can’t think, she can’t listen, she can’t go anywhere, she can’t do any work, she is bound to have babies according to her family’s wishes.
Then they told her how the SHG had helped them all, find a voice and each other, and become a source of strength, but also, how they were now, educating their families, and even doing incomce generating activities, to help their husbands in the house.
They expressed profuse gratititude to Mrs. Gandhi, for her example of leadership, and empowerment, and the inspiration she provides each one of them. They also thanked her for the very idea of the RGMVP, and for ‘hand holding support’ which has empowered them to take action both in their own lives and the life of the village.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Opening the door when opportunity knocks!

Fareeda was a poor and illiterate woman of Kaziyana village who earned a pittance. When RGMVP volunteers visited her village, with the intent of creating a woman’s Self Help Group (SHG) and spread the message and empower the women of the village, Fareeda thought that SHG was something meant to benefit the rich, and upper castes, and that no one would really reach out to the poor. When the pariyojana volunteer visited her, she did not pay much attention to him, as she was too caught up in her own problems.

However, the opportunity may have been wasted, but thankfully, the SHG of the village found a firm footing, and later she was visited by members of this same groups, who were trying to reach out to other ladies like themselves, and give them the support and backing of the SHG to improve their standard of living.

They explained the functioning of the group, and related experiences wherein they had benefited immensely from the SHG. They discussed her problems of caste, social status, and low income with her, and convinced her that together they could help her find a better way of living. She finally joined.

In the group they discussed her problems, and helped get a loan to start her own poultry farm. Also the group made her appreciate the value of an education, she also started to teach herself to read and write.

When the Village Organization (group of SHGs) was later formed, she was nominated as joint secretary, and then, to the Village Level SHG federation, and even as a representative on the Block Level SHG federation (BLA).

Though the moment was the greatest of her life, the BLA office was too far away from her village, making walking there a problem, but she has taught herself to cycle, and now cycles to office and back everyday. This, her story of empowerment, and leadership, serves, as she does, to help others find their legs, and make more of themselves than otherwise possible.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Example to follow

The story of Rajpati and the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana (RGMVP) is an often repeated effort of the program to bring empowerment and understanding to women in the remotest parts of the nation. Rajpati, coming from a backward class and suffering from the practice of parda, never realized that there was a wider world outside the four walls of her house, and that, more importantly, she could participate in that larger world. Through the work of RGMVP, she has discovered not only her own latent abilities, but is now helping others to do the same!

When she first approached the RGMVP team, she was a purdah clad woman, barely able to speak to them. She stammered her name, but was almost unintelligible. Nervous and unsure of herself, she was another example of so many of India’s neglected women in villages across the country. Bound to their houses and by veils, they fail to realize that they can do so much more.

But the change in Rajpati is a beacon of hope for all the other women like her. Boosted by RGMVP, she now is a confident woman, sure of herself and unfettered by the binds of her past. But what is amazing is that she isn’t content to have found herself, she’s now leading others to leave behind the same chains, and discover their role in the wider world. As a Community Resource Person with RGMVP, she is helping women find the same confidence that she now has.

Rajpati has become an adept public speaker and is fluent in conveying the goals and ideas of the RGMVP to gatherings, and her own story is her best metaphor. The change in Rajpati, from a nervous, shy, and helpless woman, to a teacher and guide, truly is a story of empowerment and growth one should be proud of.