Asha of Rambhanskheda village in Harchandpur in Raebareli has transformed herself from an ordinary village woman to an extraordinary leader and specialist in agriculture in ten years after joining SHG in RGMVP. She belonged to the social category of OBC. Though the family owned two bhiga of lands, it was not cultivated productively as there was no irrigation facility and the land was degraded. Her husband had migrated to Pune for work. Other than this land, the family did not have any other source of income. Asha had studied only up to class 8. She was so shy to speak to others. She never thought that she could save. She was never considered as part of the decisions in her family matters. The financial condition of the family was very bad. They were very much indebted to the moneylender. Their land was mortgaged. She lacked confidence. Lack of information and the social status of women, in general, did not present many opportunities for her to aspire anything.

She joined Gangadas Baba SHG of RGMVP in the year 2009. SHG was a turning point in her life. It gave a tremendous opportunity for her step out of her home, to learn and to interact with others. She got support from other members. This she values most.  She started saving in the group and gaining confidence in herself. She learned to borrow and repay from the SHG. First and the foremost thing she did was to get the mortgage of the family land released. She also purchased a diesel engine for irrigation. For these purposes, she took a loan of Rs. 5,000 from the SHG. Subsequently, she borrowed Rs. 20, 000 each on two occasions for the purchase of buffalos. Thus agriculture and allied activities started picking up in the family and she called back her husband from Pune. Now there was no need for him to migrate for a job as they had enough productive agricultural activities to be taken care of at home. Thus she provided viable occupation for her husband and stopped migration.  Agricultural income increased and they started generating surplus produce for sale.

She purchased two biswa of land in her name and constructed home. She availed Rs. 50, 000 from her SHG for the purpose. She even invested Rs.40, 000 borrowed from SHG for taking land on lease from another villager and expanding her agricultural operations.

She also gave focus on the education of her children – one boy and three girls. She borrowed money from the group to the tune of Rs 20,000 for children’s education. She invested in educating the girls. Fist daughter studied up to inter and second daughter is currently doing her B.Sc. She also got her first daughter married. She is continuing her studies even after marriage. The third daughter is in class seven. She selected and decided the school where children are to be sent. She learned everything about preventive health care under RGMVP’s health program and she is a resource person in health too.

She is the first lady in the village to follow all new agricultural practices like SRI and SWI, composting etc. which RGMVP promoted. She has developed fast learning and communications skills. She has risen in leadership in the three-tier SHG institutions and currently, she is the secretary of her block federation of SHGs. She is a Social Capital and a community program management team member for agriculture at RGMVP.  As a resource person, she has visited many places outside the state. Today she is a highly empowered and capable woman for solving many issues in the village. She is an able community trainer. She is highly respected and accepted by all. She is a volunteer with a passion for learning, disseminating among others what she learned. She is helping other women in her block and in RGMVP to learn and progress like her. She is a champion of change in RGMVP.

CS Pandey and P S Mohanan, February 2019.