Huddled in front of the laptop were a group of women from rural and tribal areas. They had travelled from remote corners of Rajasthan to make it to the meeting. They shared with us a myriad of stories from their life. In the 8th edition of Impact Dialogues, we had our Impact Partner, SRIJAN (Self Reliant Initiative through Joint Action), joining two women federations, namely, Ghoomar Mahila Samiti and Maitree Mahila Mandal.
SRIJAN wishes to see the well-being of the poor and ensure the dignity of all in society. They are working to establish trust by working in coherence with multiple Self Help Groups (SHGs) aiming for rural development projects and sustainability. As a result of which, they got two women's federations in touch with Rang De last year. And what follows is an interesting story.
When the pandemic hit last year, SRIJAN saw a rising demand for rural credit. They helped women to avail low-interest loans from Rang De for farming and livestock activities. They acted as an intermediary and worked out the legalities for both women's federations. Making it possible in the first-ever partnership of Rang De with federations under a legal framework. The Women's Federation is a cluster of Village organizations. Each Village Organisation comprises 20-30 SHGs. Each SHG has 15-20 women who come together to support each other with credit needs, security, and decision-making. They run a system of accounts, bookkeeping, management, self-governance, and monitoring. This in turn gives them the power to decide what is best for themselves and on their own terms.
Our Social Investors invested in 700+ women and provided more than 1.6 crores as loans last year. Rang De loans were accessible and flexible. It was appropriate for the diverse needs of these rural women, unlike the traditional bank loans.
For example, Foranti Devi, a member of SHG shared that there is a huge need for livestock loans in her cluster. A buffalo costs around 80k and gives 4L of milk daily. A lot of women engaged in animal husbandry with the help of credit from Rang De Social Investors.
Since the closure of micro-enterprises in the lockdown, there was a rising demand for livestock loans as it became the only viable option of revenue. Rang De loans were crucial in generating income in the lives of many rural Indians. Ganga Bai added that they also cultivated vegetables in the backyard. They practised ‘Multi-Layer farming’, a method in which optimum utilization of land is done by growing ground vegetables and creepers on the same patch of land. They sold their produce in the neighbourhood. Visiting door to door carrying the veggies in ‘tokras’, trying all the means at their disposal to make a living.
The main challenge for small farmers is that their need for agricultural credit is not met. SHGs take care of the credit required for general needs, health care, and occasional expenses. The only other option is to borrow from traders in the market. They provide credit in exchange for the harvest and exploit these farmers on weight and price. This is where the intervention of social investments becomes an absolute necessity.
This testimony from Seema Devi ascertains the impact of Social investing ‘I took a loan of Rs 25,000 from Rang De to cultivate Bajra and Makki in my field. I didn't get money on time so I was looking for government schemes but Rang De loans helped me begin the season on time. I made a net profit of 25k. I am happy with what Rang De did for me and my family.‘
The women federation enables countless women like Seema Devi to come under a collective and avail the benefits they are often denied. Together they are a force to reckon with.
In Pali District of Rajasthan, SRIJAN intensively worked with Garasiya tribal women by collectivizing them through SHGs. They enabled these groups to form a Community Institution of Federation with more than 3,000 tribal women voicing their concerns against societal evils of child marriage, consumption of liquor, exploitation of natural ora and fauna and so on.
They are empowering women in the true sense and we at Rang De are humble to join hands with them. Here's a story about when our CFO visited the MMMS community. He was humbled and amazed by their journey.
You can invest in these women leaders of rural India at rangde.in (All images are accredited to SRIJAN)