When self-help is the best help

Stories of women of Thirumazhisai and Poonamallee near Chennai who became self-reliant with a little help from SHGs

shivani

Shivani Chaturvedi | August 14, 2015




Fifty-one-year-old K Nagapooshanam of Thirumazhisai, a town panchayat about 30 km from Tamil Nadu capital Chennai, has become a role model for families in her neighbourhood.

Supported by a livelihood generation SHG (self-help group) bank linkage model, Nagapooshanam earns a living  for her family of four and supports education of her children – her daughter is pursuing the master’s degree in psychology and son is pursuing a bachelor course in computer science.

Nagapooshanam, along with 19 other SHG members, embroiders saris, suits and other dress material. During festivals and wedding season the demand for their work, zari or aari embroidery, goes up, and so does the earning of the SHG members.
However, it was not the same always. Nagapooshanam, whose husband is an electrician, says, “Earlier, with my husband’s little income we had trouble making both ends meet. Since I started earning I am able to fulfil my children’s dreams and improve the quality of life for my family.”

With an income of more than '15,000 per month, Nagapooshanam has built a house in Thirumazhisai. Earlier, she used to travel about 18 km daily from her home in the interiors of Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu to her SHG in Thirumazhisai. 

Nagapooshanam learnt hand embroidery at the SHG. Now she imparts training to young girls and women, who approach her. Twenty-one-year-old Priya, a resident of Thirumazhisai, enjoys doing hand embroidery and is taking lessons from Nagapooshanam.
“As Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu is known for its silk saris, I want Thirumazhisai to be known for hand embroidery,” she says with a smile.

A Poonamallee-based NGO, Sunlight Social Trust, formed this group in 2002, when the SHG bank-linkage scheme started in Tiruvallur district. Poonamallee in the taluk of the same name in Tiruvallur district is counted among Chennai’s suburban areas. The NGO has been nurturing and training women at the 82 SHGs it runs in Thirumazhisai.

Several members of these SHGs have also opened shops. The NGO is also planning to scale up livelihood activities in future, both in variety and in dimension.

Under the model of SHG bank-linkage, though SHGs are formed by NGOs, the bank provides credit directly to the SHGs after observing their operations and maturity to absorb credit. While the bank provides loans to the groups directly, the NGOs continue their interactions with the SHGs, says P Nirmala, who heads the Sunlight Social Trust. The NGOs guide the groups and help them in applying for loans. “We also maintain SHGs registers where details of loans taken by members and details of its repayment time etc. are recorded,” she says. 

Around 10 km from Thirumazhisai is Poonamallee where as many as 126 SHGs are functioning at present. Twenty-eight-year-old Revathi has set up a shop in Poonamallee that sells women’s wear and kids’ wear. Starting with 12 members in 2010, her group now has 50 members. The group was assisted by the NGO and linked with the Indian Bank Microsate branch, Tiruvallur. It accumulated savings and took loans to be used as capital for setting up the shop. Five months ago the bank provided her SHG a loan of '3 lakh with which the group started the shop. “I am very happy with my work. Earlier, I used to go door-to-door selling saris but the SHG bank-linkage scheme has changed my life for the better. I am more confident now. I can spend more time with my family,” says Revathi.

For T Renuka Devi, also 28, the scheme came as a ray of hope. Devi lost her husband five years back in a road accident. Her parents passed away last year. Devi, who has studied up to only Class 8, says, “I was totally dependent on my brother till two months back. It was then that I approached the NGO and now have started learning hand embroidery, tailoring, beautician course, pillow making and jewellery making. I want to become independent and help my brother financially.”

Women SHGs enable members to become self-reliant. A group feels more confident in approaching a bank, says 33-year-old Mahalakshmi, whose husband is a mechanic.

Forty-five-year-old Ezhilarasi separated from her husband a few years back. With her monthly income of '2,000, Ezhilarasi takes care of her 24-year-old differently-abled daughter. She makes pickles and stitches clothes, in which she got trained at the NGO, to earn her livelihood. “I am also able to save '300 per month. Earlier, I used to take financial assistance from my relatives but since 2010 I have started earning. I am not at anyone’s mercy now,” says Ezhilarasi.

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