5000 Women From Bengal Take On Village Development

5000 Women From Bengal Take On Village Development

On the 9th and 11 of April, 4000 women in Jhalda and Burrabazar Block of Purulia, West Bengal come together to celebrate womanhood and the stories of their struggles as they take on developmental mandates in their village(s). Women in the remote rural district of Jhalda and Burrabazar block of Purulia, West Bengal come together as a mark of their solidarity to celebrate their  ‘Mahaadhiveshan’.

 

  • Started in the year 2008, these federations bring together over 350 Self Help Groups operating in Purulia District, West Bengal
  • Members of Jhalda Nari Shakti mahila Sangh(JNSMS) in Jhalda I Block and Sabuj Sathi
  • Nari Shakti Sangh (SSNSS) in Burrabazar Block of Purulia  come together in their respective blocks to celebrate the event

These institutions have been nurtured by PRADAN (Professional Assistance in Development Action) a national level NGO with its presence of over 8 states of India. PRADAN is a non-government, non-profit organisation that works with India’s rural poor. Founded by Padmashree Deep Joshi (Magsasay Awardee and NAC member), the organization comprises of university-educated individuals motivated to use their knowledge and skills to address the issues of rural poverty by working with the people at the grassroots. Working across eight of the poorest states in the country with over 30 years of experience, PRADAN promotes Self-Help Groups; develops locally suitable economic activities; mobilises finances; and introduces systems to improve livelihoods  and well being of the rural poor and sustain their progress.

Mahaadhiveshan  is an overnight affair, that not only show cases their march towards development  but also accentuates their identity as a collective led by women irrespective of caste, class and social status. In an area struggling with both Maoist insurgency and a weak government machinery, they show the path for a new kind of development that is rooted in grass- roots democracy, “ said Kuntalika Kumbhakar, PRADAN

At a time when the government is struggling to introduce poverty eradication measures  by sketching relevant poverty lines and indicators, women in this remote rural district set a unique precedent  as over 5000 women Self Help group (SHG) members of Jhalda Nari Shakti Mahila Sangh(JNSMS) in Jhalda I Block and Sabuj Sathi Nari Shakti Sangh (SSNSS) in Barabazar Block come together in their respective blocks to celebrate the event, some of whom are perhaps stepping out of their villages for the first time.

Started in the year 2008, these federations bring together over 350 Self Help Groups operating in the area, some of which were formed as early as 1999. Unlike the popular conception of SHG’s as micro credit units, these collectives function as a “support group”, by engaging in thinking and action on issues central to the women’s lives in this area- livelihoods, well being and space in family and society etc  to enhance their sense of  dignity. In the past, these women have played an instrumental role in spearheading several developmental initiatives in their village(s) in both implementation and governance roles such as Integrated Natural resource Management (INRM) activities through  Spl. SGSY (Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana) of Government of India; Water and Sanitation program; Adult Functional Literacy.

Bio Profile of some Federation Leaders:

When Sadmoni Hembram, a resident of the forest village of TIlaboni (Bansberra Gram Panchayat, Burrabazr) was selected to represent the women SHG members of her village in the SSNSS Federation, she was quite sceptical to take on the responsibility. How will I balance my household responsibilities? Being illiterate, will I be able to participate well in the meetings? How will I speak in front of strangers? Today, however as Sadmoni confidentially shares with you about the various initiatives such as agriculture, horticulture, goatery, watershed management that she and her fellow SHG members have collectively worked for in their village the confidence she exudes leaves you spellbound. Her warm smile, however masks the struggles she has undergone. When PRADAN first initiated SHG’s in their hamlet, Sadmoni could barely make ends meet with barely 6 months of food sufficiency.  After a long and laborious day of working in the fields, managing her household chores and collecting firewood from the forest for sale, she would regularly attend the Functional Literacy Centre in her village. As a result, she can now read and write Bengali as also perform, basic mathematical operations. However, what continues to inspire her the most is to participate in meetings and motivate her fellow SHG women in the nearby villages to walk towards the path of development. With a mischievous smile, she says “Aajkal Dada bagali jachhe, amra meeting ashchi”. These days men take the cattle for grazing, and we all (women) are attending meeting”!



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