BY Madina Bukhari
National Rural Livelihood Mission-(NRLM)- a poverty alleviation Initiative popular as Umeed in the Valley. On a weekly meeting of a homogeneous Self-Help Group (SHG), 8- 10 women can be found meeting up to discuss and deliberate upon the involvement and engagement of their SHG- the basic unit that federates the women to form their institutions at the community level.
These community institutions have multifaceted impact on the developmental aspects of women and their families in rural settings. Most of the women during the group formation phase hesitate to speak up or introduce themselves in the meetings which are central to a functional Self-Help Group of NRLM. The identity issues of the rural women are commonly prevalent at the implementation phase of NRLM intervention. While crossing the stages of Group Formation, women carve an identity of their own. They become confident to associate their names with their Community Based Institutions as being the members or leaders of these institutions.
The roles and responsibilities that they are encouraged to take up build them up to get involved in decision-making processes at the institutional levels, thereby creating a pervasive atmosphere to find a space in their interfamilial decision-making processes. Typically, the group doesn’t go through the Group Formation Stages which are Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing just the one time. Most of the groups continuously go through these stages throughout their life cycle. The composition of the group largely remains the same but the change of roles is encouraged to allow equal opportunity for all the members to get equipped with different roles as a team.
To explore gainful livelihood opportunities emphasis is given on grouping them together and facilitating effective communication among the members of the group. This kind of interactive space sets up an atmosphere for these rural women to voice their concerns. The closely woven social platform also offers them the space to talk about their individual matters and find the solutions. This group serves as a support system to these women, at times serving as a group therapy in an informal way. They meet on a regular basis with a purpose and follow the basic guiding principles envisaged in the Program policy. The members of these Self-Help Groups (SHGs) contribute to a productive economic activity. The small savings of each of the 10 members of the group is pooled in their Joint Account. This amount proves as a timely help to the members of the group, given out to the needy members as Saving Loan. The amount lent is recovered from the member in monthly instalments on a mutual consensus. As an external help by NRLM the financial assistance to the group comes in the form of Revolving Fund and Community Investment fund. The amount remains revolving in the group while utilizing the same for enhancing their existing livelihoods or for taking up a new venture they are interested and skilled to take up. One of the major issues of this underprivileged section of population was their exclusion from the formal financial sector. By being the part of the Program these SHG members have an easy access to the Banking Sector thereby getting access to credit.
The capacity Building Component of NRLM intervention for these SHG members has brought in an attitudinal change and a behavioural change in the members. Through a mode of participatory learning and self-propelled learning from the field NRLM has evolved Social Capital in each of the Blocks taken up for the intervention. This Social Capital– a network of the relationships of the members aimed at benefitting by their association touches all the verticals as that of bonding the members of the group contributing towards creating a we-feeling and thus greater affinity among the members, bridging the members by involving them in thrift and savings and linking the members to the other players in the field as that of Banks and Government institutions etc.
This comprehensive program for poverty alleviation has success stories of women from all the Blocks
wherein the women have federated to form their community institutions as that of Village Organizations and Cluster Level federations, all of these the amalgamation of the Basic Unit –Shone such Story is from BK Pora Block.
Naziya—One of the SHG members of Block BK Pora, resides in Khanda Village. Prior to her association with the poverty eradication Program Umeed, she narrates that she had no insight about the entrepreneurial opportunities that she could have explored at her individual level or at family level. The Capacity Building Component of Program Umeed which paves a way for the Rural Women to capacitate themselves has a tangible impact as narrated by Nazia. She shares that it was only after she became a member of SHG namely Zaffron that she took it up to evolve discussions in her family leading her husband towards becoming an aspiring entrepreneur. Her husband an engineering graduate was facing impediments for taking up a livelihood to support and sustain his family. For taking up a business venture the financial support structure was inaccessible. She expresses that through her association with Umeed her mind was shaped in a way that would make her think about a possible business venture leading her family towards prosperity. The support structure offered by Program Umeed pillars the foundation of her shop established for sales and services of electronic gadgets. Nazia has availed various internal loans that her group was assisted with by Umeed and got access to Banking Sector for being financed directly by the Bank. Nazia shares that Pre pandemic her Sales and Services Shop fetched her a Profit of Rs 15000 a month.
NRLM has triggered a decisive influence on women empowerment and poverty alleviation in rural settings. Women are the forerunners in planning, organizing and leading their Institutions and are successful in achieving their goals
(The author is currently working as Block Program Manager, JK Rural Livelihood Mission at BK Pora of Budgam district)