24 Oct 2016 13:43 IST

Marching in collective mode

Uttar Pradesh’s yuva SHGs create a buzz

Not wanting to be left behind in economic empowerment, Young Women Self-Help Groups (YWSHGs), which are really safety nets for 13- to 20-year-olds, are stepping out of their homes and villages.

They save small sums of money every month and take loans to pay their college fees and buy books. They use the strength of the collective to learn skills, financial literacy, about health and hygiene. To boost self-confidence they avail themselves of the leadership training being imparted across Uttar Pradesh.

Bhavna, 19, is the leader of the Lakshmi YWSHG of Naithu village, Thaliyanagle, Badaun. She scored 67 per cent in Std XII and is doing her BA in economics and social science. As the leader of her samooh (group), she was trained by the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana (RGMVP) for new responsibilities.

When Bhavna went to the Sarv UP Grameen Bank to deposit the filled forms and cash of samooh members, manager Dev Dutt Sharma offered her a job at a salary of ₹3,000 a month. Getting an educated girl with commitment and drive in the villages is not easy, so he offered to train her for bank work.

Bhavna is now being groomed to become a business correspondent. After college, every day from 2 pm till 5 pm, she sits on the computer at the bank, opens accounts, draws up a list of defaulters and sends notices. On days when she does not go to college, she arrives at the bank at 10 am to handle the 150 women’s accounts that are her responsibility.

“When I joined the samooh, I had no money of my own and had to borrow ₹50 from my mother,” she recalls. Today, the 12 members take loans for their education and a few have learned tailoring and bought sewing machines. Bhavna bought a mobile phone for herself and her brother with her first loan.

Under the RGMVP, more than 7,000 self-help groups have been actively engaged in empowering young girls across the State since 2013. Alumni of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, has helped with scholarships for higher education. Other opportunities too are opening up for the girls. Last year, two girls from Amethi travelled to Lucknow for a course in journalism. Articulate members of YWSHGs are demanding courses in beauty care as they see an entrepreneurial opportunity in opening beauty parlous. Others want to join the police force, or become nurses or teachers.

Seema, who dropped out after middle school, has been a member of Mahalakshmi YWSHG at Nasrullapur village, Ujhani block of Badaun, for three years now. All the girls of this samooh save ₹50 a month. In all, 14 girls from various samoohs in the village are into tailoring. Seema is the master trainer and adept at stitching salwar-kameez suits, blouses and petticoats. She earns ₹2,500-4,000 a month. During the wedding and festive season, her earnings go up to around ₹7,000.

Seema charges ₹100 a month to teach fellow members; within four months most are confident enough to set out on their own. As samooh members they get a chance to visit the Community Resource Development Centre in Shahjahanpur, where they learn about menstrual hygiene, health, skills and empowerment. The exposure has motivated Seema to get back to her studies and she is preparing for Std X board exam.

(The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi.)

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