Saturday, April 20, 2013

Experience is the Best Teacher: Hilauli’s SHG members show the way

Experiential learning stays with a learner for life. It is an extremely vigorous form of absorbing which entrenches itself in the way a person thinks. Experiential learning is not peripheral; it has a depth to its process that sinks in, in a way that theoretical learning cannot achieve. It is this form of learning that is disseminated in a horizontal manner from member to member throughout RGMVP’s Self Help Group (SHG) platforms in Uttar Pradesh.

“Knowledge is continuously derived from and tested out in the experiences of the learner” (Kolb, 1984:27)[1]. In the application of each new experience the individual learner draws from past knowledge and practice, which is then combined with the new experience which leads to a modification in behaviour. This expands the knowledge base of the practitioner, and this knowledge can be further utilized in varied situations.

During the monthly Block Organisation meeting in Hilauli Office bearers at the block level wanted to know from all those present, their own experience of working in the field and how they saw the SHG platforms evolving.

Madhuri an office bearer herself started recounting the experience from her own village Bardaha. She said that although there were many active SHGs in her village it was only a few members who were stepping up and taking loans, other members were holding back as they did not know what to expect. Shanti an SHG member took out money to buy a goat. Within a year the Goat had given birth to four calves, taking Shanti’s fleet of goats to five, through this she was able to pay back her loan easily. Seeing Shanti’s success Ritu a member of Shanti’s SHG gained confidence. Ritu who at first was reluctant to take out money for the purpose of livelihood took courage form Santi’s experience and has now decided that in the next mela (fair) she will buy a buffalo, and use this as a medium to enhance her livelihood.

Similarly Mamta was one of the few who had taken out money from her SHG for livelihood. Mamta had rented a piece of land in her village. She first planted mustard, and wheat, and as soon as the wheat and mustard harvesting season is over Mamta plans to plant peppermint. In a short span Mamta will benefit from the profits of three crops. Deshpati a member of Mamta’s SHG was inspired by Mamta’s experience, she has now taken out Rs. 15,000 from her SHG account to rent a piece of land to practice small scale agriculture.

Active SHG members in Hilauli are taking charge and through their own experience they are inspiring other women to take out money and invest it in income generating activities. Ritu and Deshpati prove that experiencing others achievements is the best ‘teacher’. This is an ever evolving process as it stimulates others to join who bring their own experiences to the fold.

[1] Kolb D. A (1984), Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lasting Impressions

Two years back, when Kate James, the Chief Communication Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation(BMGF)told her mother about Rajpati, the woman leader under the RGMVP’s community empowerment programme in India, Kate’s mother appreciated her. Kate felt very important at that time because her mother had not often acknowledged her accounts of meeting well known personalities or celebrities.

On February 21, 2013, two years later, she visited the RGMVP again, which is presently implementing a community mobilisation programme supported by Gates Foundation. She met and interacted with Rajpati and a group of 50 other women leaders in a Block Organization office in Lalganj Block, Raebareli district.

The women leaders of Kranti Block Organisation made a presentation on how their Organisation was able to double the outreach in the block in less than two years and as a resource organisation, nurtured four other blocks simultaneously. With a pride in the organisation and commitment towards organising other poor women around them, they explained their scale up strategy.

Kate and her team from BMGF were greatly impressed when they saw the confidence, enthusiasm and the power of articulation of the women leaders. They were the very women, who were in the clutches of poverty and subjugated to all sort of social barriers until two years ago but were today beaming with success and the incredible spirit of voluntarism.

Kate was eager to hear from Rajpati about the developments in her life. Rajpati briefed her that while she used to take care of just one or two blocks two years back, currently she is associated with the whole programme. She explained how she now devotes her entire time in spreading the concept and building the capacity of women for further mobilisation and nurturing leadership. Rajpati clearly shared her vision of how in the next two years, the programme would be scaled up to cover the entire state.

Kate said that she once again felt very important and proud that she could visit and interact with the women from the community, the real testimony to development.

( Kate James with the leaders from the community)