By Poonam Shukla and Shikha Bohra, interns of HET
This is a part of the story of how the HET team formed the Tirthan Valley Mahila Samuh, a Self-Help group with women from the village Tinder in the Tirthan valley
The women took us near a house where everyone had gathered. There, under that house, a huge group of women were making felt, for which we had given a training a couple of days before. The ones who had come down for the training had actually taught their friends. The entire group was enjoying the process. There was no limit to our joy. We could see that they really wanted to learn and to grow. They had restored our high spirits and intensified our belief in them. Just beside the felt making group was our Lata didi making a cloth out of wool in the very efficient machine used by the locals with her husband. The process was really interesting to see. Both of us were reminded of Tilonia. We told them how this can be a potential way to make another types of bags.
After the cloth making was over, we went to our usual meeting spot near the village temple and began the meeting. Our meeting was divided into two parts: the first phase was playing 3-D monopoly with the women and the second was discussing the Bye laws and making the group. For the game, we divided them into 2 groups and gave them a small amount of money (made out of newspaper) to start with. For property they could buy villages and make Homestays and fields over it. They had to pay certain money to buy them and then the other were same as monopoly regarding saving and the rent system. Two of us, Arindam and Tryphena became the pawns, Shrija and Shuchi were the advisors for respective teams, Poonam was the bank and I was the dice and the game-master. We had a lot of fun while playing and the women picked up basic ideas about investing and managing their business’ money.
Post the fun, games and obviously debrief which was basically a discussion over how saving and investment at the right place play key role in business, we sat down for some serious discussions about the formation of the group. Again to our disbelief, twenty five women sat down for the discussion! That was more than double of what we had expected. Anyways, we carried on as experience had taught us that the number would reduce by the time we end. We ran through the bye-laws again, made a few changes and formulated the remaining rules.
Now, it was the time for decision. We had to decide who would be the Chairperson, secretary and treasurer for the group. Somehow, out of nowhere, we found that a small group of women wanted to create two self-help groups in the same village and work with the exact same product. We could sense the possible negative effects that could have. We were lucky to have Dulhesinghji (Vandana’s father) around. He helped us handle the situation, calm the women down and convince them to make only one group. By the end of it, there were twelve women who remained.After great discussion, the three positions were decided. Kavita Thakur was to be the Chairperson, Lata Thakur was the chosen secretary and Meera Devi was the Treasurer.
We got all their signatures on it. We had finally succeeded in our mission. One month and four villages later, we had a women self help group ready to work! They are going to start with making bags out of felt for now.
We all walked away understanding each other better and with great feedback. The best part was that the kids understood it better and we could see the bonds improving. We hope this positively impacts the team.