Women’s Empowerment

Jagruthi Mutually Aided Co-Operative Thrift Society Ltd.

Jagruthi today is a successful community based organization with a base of 3200 odd women. It has a capital base of over Rs. 45 lakhs( 4.5 million rupees ) as of March 2001. There are no traditional artisan skills or products in this area of operation. The women, given the right sort of exposure and training can transform themselves into successful entrepreneurs and create better opportunities and livelihoods for themselves as well as their village members.

Synposis

Started savings and credit activity in 3-4 villages in 1992.

The activity functioned as individual village level unregistered societies from 1992 to 1995.
By 1995 the collective savings of all these women had reached Rs.5.75 lakhs. As the activity was growing we were on the lookout for an effective means of legalizing the activity as the public money was involved. Also loans given were unsecured (only based on group guarantee) and therefore some form of protection was required.

At this juncture the Andhra Pradesh government came up with a new Co-operative Act called the Mutually Aided Co-operative Societies Act 1995. This act gave much more flexibility in the sense that it provided the following : No share capital from the Govt. thereby minimizing the interference of Govt. departments. This interference hitherto has proved to be the bane of co-operative societies.

The onus of running the society in accordance with their objectives as set out in the bye-laws rests solely on the members.

Accounts are to be audited every year by a professional Chartered Accountant and returns submitted every year to the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, Hyderabad.

Above all it provides the legal framework for the financial activity and legal redress too through the Cooperative Tribunal.

Having gone through the Act and its interpretation thoroughly it was decided to federate all the village level groups into a single society under this Act. This was registered as JAGRUTHI MUTUALLY AIDED CO-OPERATIVE THRIFT SOCIETY Ltd., and it became the first society under this Act in Visakhapatnam District.

Around this time NABARD(National Bank for Agriculture and Rural development sanctioned a Revolving fund Assistance of Rs.10 lakhs to Sri Vidya Trust for on-lending to the groups. This RFA came after nearly a year of submitting the proposals. This RFA was given to SVT @9% and was onlent to the then individual village level groups at 12%.(the 3 % margin being service charges towards ensuring prompt repayment of the RFA. It was to be repaid to NABARD in 8 equal half-yearly installments with a one-year moratorium. This loan was sanctioned and released in August 1995 and repaid 6 months ahead of time by July 1999. Loans given were for various purpsoes like small businesses, poultry, mulch animals, livestock (goats/sheep), pig-rearing, vegetable vending etc.

Impact Report

Ss5

A group meditation session organized by the Women’s empowerment program

Major changes in lives of beneficiaries:

Level of self-confidence
The first major impact is the level of self-confidence in the women that has arisen from the formation of Jagruthi Mutually Aided Co-operative Thrift Society Ltd., way back in 1995. The fact that all the women who were not united till 1992 formed successful village level societies which in turn united together to form a big federation under the name and style of Jagruthi M.A.C.T.S.ltd. and its success in achieving its objectives has greatly boosted up the self confidence. Incidentally Jagruthi is the first society of its’ kind in Visakhapatnam under the 1995, A.P.Mutually Aided Co-operative Act.

Money lenders
Money-lenders who, albeit their exorbitant rates and conditions of loans used to be the prime patron for the villages credit needs have now lost their patronage; what with the people and that too women for the first time gaining access to means of credit without any collateral security and at affordable rates of interest.

The net worth of the individual has gone up both savings-wise as well as credit worthiness. Starting from ‘nil’ the cumulative savings of the women today is of the order of 31.5 lakhs; while the total amount loans benefited has crossed the 1 crore mark and now stands at Rs 1.16 crores. Today the amount of individual loan that can be accessed from the society is Rs.15,000/-

Raise in levels of income
With access to credit at their doorsteps and at reasonable rates of interest the women are now able to invest monies on income generating programs of their choice thus transforming their identity chrysalis to butterfly fashion from unrecognized unpaid workers to accredited bread-winners for the family.

Decision making
Within the household and community the women hitherto had no say in decisions relating to finance- all that was male territory. So much so that even loans were taken by mortgaging lands in the banks and with the women coming to know of it only when the bank officers came to their villages threatening action for non-payment. Today the scene has radically changed. The women command say in the process of decision making in the family. This is evident by the fact that in case of loans bigger than 2000/- the husbands are feeling confident that there are dependable in case of crises for their financial requirements and the way to it is only their wives and their thrift deposits in their savings accounts. This gave the women a good place in their family and the society.

Leadership qualities
The women who earlier were just puppets in the hands of males are asserting themselves and proving that given the right opportunity they can handle anything. Men are also reluctantly acknowledging the fact that the women are a force to be reckoned with-this is evident form statements like “why don’t you solve this issue through your society” be it an issue of domestic violence or street lights or housing colony.

Jagruthi Mahila Samakhya
They have been successful in the formation of this voluntary body which is really the foundation for the social development. B Saroja of Pedamushidiwada is the convener of the Samkhya. They have chalked out a program by which they will be first identifying the problems of the women in the villages through survey and then taking measures to solve them.

Managing the society
Though they were dependent on the supporting voluntary organization for support in decision making in the beginning, they have emerged to the stage that they can draw up right conclusions and could convince their co- members and explain the reasons under which they had to opt such decisions.

Redeeming mortgaged lands
This means that women are accessing credit based on their savings and saving the mortgaged lands from going out of their hands. This may seem a very minor issue but viewed in the wider context it describes the power of women’s savings redeeming the land, which to an agricultural family is like redeeming back their mother.

Basic needs fulfillment
The women are able to also fulfill the third basic need i.e. housing as is evident from the number of loans being taken for housing .

Computer Aided Education
Having realized the fact that they will be looked down if they do not learn how to read and write they are attending the computer classes setup by the society and Sri Vidya Trust to make them literate within a short span of 2 to 3 months.

Wider Impact on Policies and Practices

The success of the thrift and credit movement which has spread across Andhra Pradesh has led to the formation of the new Co-operative Act also called the Model Act-The Andhra Pradesh Mutually Aided Co-operative Societies Act 1995. Under the aegis of this Act the members can run their society formulating own bye-laws and rules in accordance with their objective without interference from the Govt. departments.

The banks today are coming forward to lend to self-help group- in fact certain rural banks like Visakha Grameena bank have assigned SHG lending a high priority.

Govt. departments as also the dist. officials like Collector and P.D., D.R.D.A have recognized the role played by the society and make a conscious effort to include the society representatives in meetings reg. planning and implementation of various programs.

NABARD RFA: The Rs.10 lakhs revolving fund given by NABARD to Sri Vidya Trust , for on-lending to the groups. All this amount was utilized by the members for various purposes and as on July 99 was totally repaid by the society to Sri Vidya Trust along with the service charges @ 12% interest p.a.(one installment ahead of time)

IRDP Loans: We are happy to put across that the Government (District Rural Development Agency) has recognized our Jagruthi M.A.C.T.S. as one of the disbursement channels at par with nationalized banks to implement the IRDP loans program and accordingly disbursed amount as subsidy. This could be considered as an important development, which shows good co-ordination between the society and top district authorities.

Women‘s representation in local bodies: Women have been asserting themselves and are exuding confidence that they can play a pivotal role in local bodies. A majority of the women are in the local panchayat and also in various village development committees like the school committee, water users association and they also command good posts within these local bodies. Some women have been elected as MPTC members and a few as ZPTC members.

Paradigm shift in priorities: The women are today placing more and more emphasis on their children’s education and more importantly the girl child’s education- sending them for higher school also even if it implies traveling to another village. Hitherto this was unthinkable as the girl’s education would be dependent on the fact whether there was a school in the same village and also education would be discontinued once she attained puberty.

Women are assigning more and more importance to their health as can be perceived from the changing trend in no. of loans taken for health over the years (Pl. see enclosed graph).

Feeling of solidarity: The women today have created a platform for themselves to voice out their problems and try to find solutions for them within themselves first. This solidarity was visible in the international women’s day celebrations held this year on March 8th,2001 wherein 300 women from various villages came and took part in a rally and demanded better health services to the villages.

Socially conscious of their problems & ways of tackling them.

In view of the fact that every agricultural season the people were facing great hardship in procuring fertilizers for their crops paying sometimes almost 25 to 50 % extra amount per bag of fertilizer the board decided to start a Fertilizers storage under the aegis of the society. As per this decision, Fertilizers storage at Ganapathi Nagar was inaugurated by Mr. B. Satyanarayana Murty on 26.6.98 the standing M.L.A,.& Fertilizers were sold to the members only, at reasonable prices. As a result of the depot the local fertilizer shops too hurriedly brought down their prices. Thus the market price was controlled to an extent.

As a regular visitor to our organization, the Director of Horticulture, Visakhapatnam having observed the SHG activity asked our groups to take up sales of essential commodities instead of vegetables in the different Rythu Bazaars. The sales, the response, and the activity were very good. Later the groups expressed their difficulty of not being able to face the different orders and changing moods of different people from the departments like Civil supplies, Revenue, Horticulture and the estate officers of the bazaars who come and give their independent order in fixing up the rates without any coordination among themselves.

This went on put together for a period of 4 months ( both times) approximately and later they have decided to put a stop to that at that place.

And with the rich experience, the acquired knowledge of sales to the town dwellers and the difference in the rates of wholesale and retail markets they could plan instead, to take up the activity without the intervention of the govt., as a mobile bazaar.

Loan purposes: Loans earlier used to be taken for consumption and traditional agriculture have now made a foray into innovative activities like pig-rearing, vegetable vending , small businesses like pan shops, tea hotels etc creating better employment opportunities for their families.

Key Reasons for Results

As Stephen Covey says : “ the power to change lies within the person and all it requires is the thought and will to change”. No amount of persuasion can help a person who has decided not to. So here when we talk about reasons for the results the very first to be mentioned is that the women have consciously recognized the need to change and have decided to go for it. All other reasons are secondary and are the cause of intervention.

Internal Factors:
One of the key reasons is the inherent ability of women to adapt quickly to situations, to understand the concepts and zeal to learn new things. Added to that the innate confidence and talent that women possess in discerning and analyzing enables them to scale greater heights and go further on the road to empowerment.

The commitment they evince is visible in that they are able to take time off from familial responsibilities and take active part in the training programs organized.

Transparency of operation:
The reason and satisfaction they attribute for their success is that their money is not going out of their villages and the fruits of interest also is being added to their own members.

The members themselves are at the helm of affairs and taking own decisions in the board be it reg. sanction of loans or interest rate or new activities –they are able to tackle them with ease, without any external influence. One negative factor here that ought to be mentioned is that local village politics sometimes rears its ugly head and tries to tear apart the fabric of the group. This experience was had in Salapuvanipalem during the last Panchayat elections.

While it has been widely accepted that women are agents for social change sometimes it does have a negative impact that there are more demands on her time now than ever before accompanied by more responsibilities.

External factors:
The basic intervention i.e. that of thrift and credit movement has paved the way for further social and political processes. This is a result of the various trainings and workshops conducted for ex:
Training for Group Leaders, Delegates, Directors on their roles and responsibilities Promotion of women leaders, exposure visits, Panchayat Raj training programs etc.

If the training programs are mentioned then it would only be right to also mention the crucial role that trainers/facilitators have played in the training programs. Every care has been taken to ensure full participation of the members and the trainers (special mention-Sajaya of Bhumika) have also made ample use of training techniques and tools like case studies, simple exercises, role plays, small group discussions. Training designs like moderating, group life sharing and feedback have also been utilized to enhance group building.

Negative factors:
The A.P Governments populist policy of gas connections to DWCRA members has shown a mild negative effect in that certain members were temporarily unable to view the long term objectives of the society and instead were focusing on the short-term attractions of the Govt. This was very short-lived though primarily because of the politics involved in Govt. schemes which meant that only a select number could avail the scheme. The delegates too in turn have motivated the members and brought them back into the fold. One fact to be mentioned here is that the Govt. shows step-motherly treatment to MACTS promoted by NGOs as compared to the DWCRA groups formed by the Govt. arms.

Strengths of the Organization

All the senior staff and those holding honorary posts in the society are more committed and with technical background to deal with people and implementation of the project.

The president ,Vice President including some of the board of directors are very enthusiastic even to tackle issues, given proper exposure.

The Managing Director being a civil engineer, having learnt necessary expertise on accountancy has taken up the role of extending voluntary services to the society and continuously monitoring the activity.

The staff are continuously making efforts to improve and put into action what they have learnt for e.g.:- after the coordinator K Ramakrishna attended the Management training he has been trying to consciously improve both himself as well as help the others in improving (personality development) and has already put some management practices in their place.

NABARD’s giving a Revolving Fund Assistance of 10 lakhs, direct to the Sri Vidya Trust for on lending to the members of the Thrift groups bypassing local banks (because of their non-co-operation) has given a big boost to the organization and the thrift members at large.

The honorary services of the secretary Sri Vidya Trust, in motivating new villages, his keen quest & lookout for entrepreneurship development programs always keeps the society at its best.

Good relation with Govt. departments has helped us fulfill some of the members’ requirements for example. Fertilizer depot license sanction.

Cost-effectiveness of the program

This year the very tangible achievement of the voluntary formation of the JAGRUTHI MAHILA SAMAKHYA which will focus on issues pertaining to women has shown that all these years of effort and time put into the program has finally borne fruit. It has not been induced nor coerced it has only been nurtured through guidance and counseling. The long-term objective of women empowerment is finally beginning to take shape.

All this has been achieved with the tenacity of the women, the dedication and commitment of the people involved and the very valuable guidance and support form OXFAM.

This achievement is quite cost-effective coming as it does in the light of the fact that the society has always been bearing part of the budget so as to learn to be self-reliant.

Future Plans

It is planned to give more impetus to the Jagruthi Mahila Samakhya- provide for more training programs and workshops which will boost them to go in the right direction. It is proposed to help the society in their endeavors of community mobilization in the areas of women empowerment and self-reliance. In this journey they are planning to focus on women’s issues, health, education and looking at setting up of a mobile consumer co-operative stores as well as a mobile clinic.

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