By: ANUPMA V CHANDRA
“Where there is a will there is a way”. This is something we all have heard time and again but very few of us practice it. In the Sheel village of Himachal Pradesh, women have changed the face of their village and their lives through sheer hard work and determination. This village is located 8 km. from the block headquarters and falls in the Gram Panchayat Top Ki Ber in Solan District. The total number of families in the village are 49. Out of which 17 are below poverty line. The total population of the village is 357.
The Sheel Mahila Mandal meeting in progress
The achievements of this village are many. Through the contribution of Mahila Mandal, the village has the distinction of becoming the first Open Defecation Free (ODF) village, not only in the block but in the entire distt. This feat was achieved on September 2005. This change in lifestyle has come through health workers visiting the village and educating the people. The women of the village took special interest in hygiene and sanitation thereby ensuring in their households that there should be no open defecation.
The achievements of the Mahila Mandal go further and as of today all the women of the village are part of this Mahila Mandal. These women collectively take credit/financial assistance from the Block Office and UCO Bank under Government schemes and run their own collective farming. Through this, the women have become financially independent and are now in a position to take all their decisions. In fact the Head of the Mahila Mandal said that since they have started earning on their own, their status in their homes have also gone up considerably and they are now much more free to take their own decisions and initiatives. One such initiative has been the construction of the Community Centre in the village. For this the women of this village took financial and technical guidance from the block office and district administration. However, one of the members of the Mahila Mandal said, “We were so keen on completing this Community Centre that we ourselves worked as labourers and ensured that the Community Centre is ready in less time and less cost”. The total cost of this Community center is only Rs.1,91,500/-. The women have developed optimum system of functioning wherein different types of functions are looked after by specified women and each of these women heads have a team which looks after a particular aspect of development in the village. There are teams which look after sanitation and hygiene, there are teams which look after education and there are teams which look after further economic development and financial independence. The Mandal has also facilitated functional units like child care center so that women can work.
Child Care centre in Sheel
The Mahila Mandal in Sheel village acts as the operative body for implementing Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY).
SGSY was launched in April-1999 to eradicate unemployment problems and give economic assistance to the rural poor and downtrodden peoples.
SGSY aims at establishing a large number of micro-enterprises in the rural areas, building upon the potential of the rural poor. It is rooted in the belief that rural poor in India have competencies and, given the right support can be successful producers of valuable goods/services. The assisted families may be individuals or groups (Self Help Groups). Emphasis is on the group approach.
SGSY is a holistic programme covering all aspects of self employment such as organization of the poor into Self Help Groups (SHGs), training, credit, technology, infrastructure and marketing.
The objective of SGSY is to bring the assisted poor families (swarozgaris) above the poverty line by ensuring appreciable increase in incomes over a period of time. This objective is to be achieved by inter-alia organizing the rural poor into Self Help Groups (SHGs) through a process of social mobilization, their training and capacity building and provision of income-generating assets through a mix of bank credit and government subsidy.
SGSY is funded by the Centre and the States in the ratio of 75:25.
Sheel village has come out as a model for other villages under this scheme and the village residents aspire to rise even higher.
(The author is Deputy Director, Press Information Bureau (PIB), New Delhi)
Feature and Pics Courtesy: PIB FEATURES