Radha Devi of Sheravali SHG in Sarai Khema Village in Amethi block of Amethi district is today highly empowered. Married at the age if 13, she never attended school. There was no system of educating girls of poor family in her family. She was confined at home after marriage. Her ‘Maike” (mother’s place) was very poor. However, husband’s family was in much more worse condition. The family had 1.5 bigha of land but not put to use. The in-laws were almost blind to do lacked capacity to do agriculture. She was a nobody. As per social custom, she was never addressed by her name.

She joined SHG in 2008 when the CRPs from Andhra Pradesh came to RGMVP and started mobilizing poor ladies in to SHGs in villages. As she did not have money for the first saving contribution, the same was paid, on her behalf, by Shanti, another member. Then her husband started giving her one rupee per day for SHG savings.

Year 2008 was a turning point in her life. She was fast to catch up the opportunity to break barriers and connect to others. All her hidden wishes to learn opened like flood gates. She was a fast learner. The first day of joining the SHG itself, she learned how to hold the pen. Her eagerness to learn impressed others and she was made the secretary of the SHG.

In 2009, she took a loan of Rs. 3, 000 and purchased a sewing machine. She earned good money by stitching blouses, etc. and repaid the loan in one month!

Then she availed Rs. 10, 000 from SHG and constructed a toilet. This happened when all villages were waiting for support from Government for construction of toilet. Radha broke the norm. She succeeded in it because she wanted it.

Then she took Rs. 40, 000 loan from SHG and purchased a buffalo and started sale of milk, generating regular income. She repaid this loan and the loan for toilet in in one year period.

She considered SHG as her school and never missed an opportunity to learn. She has three children, of which two are daughters and the third, a son. She was particular about their education. She learned arithmetic with the help of her children. Initially she had taken a loan of Rs. 15, 000 for education of her children.

She had an ambition to pass high school. Radha, who never went to school, got admission in high school in 2010-11 and passed 10th class in 2014 with 63 % marks!

Her exposure in SHGs motivated her to focus on agriculture and put the family land in to productive purpose. She decided to invest in agriculture and borrowed Rs. 30, 000 from SHG for a pump set. Not only it helped her to cultivate the land, but also she earned regular income in agricultural seasons by way of hiring the pump set to other famers. Investment in irrigation helped the family to produce surplus grains from the same land from which earlier they were not able to produce grain sufficient enough for food! Every season they started selling surpluses worth Rs. 10, 000 to Rs. 12, 000. She has kitchen gardens. She has two buffalos.

Family’s economic condition improved and she took Rs. 8, 000 loan and purchased a rickshaw to move agricultural inputs and produces. Then she purchased a scooty for her own as well as husband’s mobility. The scooty’s price was Rs. 63,000. A sign of confidence and prosperity!

She focused in daughters’ education and empowerment. She took Rs. 60,000 for sending her two daughters for nursing course. Together with the loan from SHG and her own savings, she invested Rs. 1, 42, 000 for the nursing course of both her daughters.

Her son is also studying well and her dream is to make him a MMBS doctor!

As a natural corollary to her success, she became a leader in community mobilization. In her village, she helped in formation of SHGs. As a Community Resource Person, she had gone to Himachal Pradesh to provide support to HPSRLM. She also supported RGMVP by associating as a Program in Charge from Community in Mal block of RGMVP’s Lucknow region. Currently, she is one of the members of the Community Resource Development Institution Team in RGMVP. She is one of the best examples of how women can help themselves to break barriers and become active participants in the development process. She is connected to the world and carries a smart phone!

She is smart!

P S Mohanan, 12 March 2019