Ahmedabad, June 14: BESET with lack of livelihood opportunities, poverty and little information on ways to alter the situation, life was nothing short of a tale of constant drudgery for Usha Vasava eight years ago. Her only solace was that she was not alone and there were many like her in the Vasava community in Sagbara taluka of Narmada district. Things, however, changed for good with the formation of myriad Self Help Groups (SHGs) across the taluka by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) and today, these women are not only self-reliant, but have also formed a taluka-level federation of the SHGs to address the issue at macro level.
“Earlier, we lived in a terrible condition as we never had enough money to cultivate land,” said Usha. “We often had to mortgage our jewellery or land to the local sahukar (moneylender) to get some money in order to buy seeds,” she adds. The high rate of interest cost them a lot of money and eventually resulted in loss of land as well as property. “We formed Navjagruti SHG at village Panchtitri in 2000 and in the beginning, we saved Rs 10 per month but gradually raised it to Rs 30,” said a proud Usha. “Now, with little savings at our discretion, we no longer approach local moneylenders and go to banks instead, who now have no qualms about giving us loans,” she adds.
“The Vasava community in the tribal-dominated Narmada and Bharuch district has been marginalised since long,” said Aadal Arsi from AKRSP. “Due to lack of livelihood options and poverty, the community had to move from their land and work as migratory labourers in the nearby towns of Bardoli and Surat,” she pointed out.
“AKRSP, which started working with the community in the mid 80s initiated them to the concept of SHGs, which educated them on the idea of saving and credit,” Arsi said, adding, that the idea found favour with the local women who not only formed groups at the village level but also formed a taluka-level body at Sagbara ‘Sagbara Mahila Mandal’ in 1999 and today, there are as many as 81 SHGs under this Mandal.”
Usha, who has been appointed secretary of this mandal, points out that the rate of migration of labour has come down significantly with the establishment of such SHGs. The Mandal has also set up an agriculture tools library (issues farming tools to farmers of the community) and seven shops in Sagbara, dealing in different commodities, which are being run by various SHGs.