“My name is Nirmala. I am from Padava ka Purva in Khairabad block Sitapur district. I am 40 years old. I belong to an SC family. I was not lucky to attend school. I eked out my life by doing labor work. However such work/labor used to be scarce in our village and nearby villages. Therefore we used to face great difficulties in passing the days. I had added burdens and bondage even within the family.  I had to borrow from moneylenders who used to charge 10% interest per month. It was very difficult for us to repay loans taken from a moneylender. There were times when moneylenders also did not help us. Once when my husband got sick, nobody in the village gave me financial support and I had to mortgage our land to meet the expenses for his treatment.

I am now a member of Badal SHG in my village. I joined the group in May 2015. Even when I joined SHG, I did not have money to contribute to the SHG savings. At that time, the community volunteer who organized us, Shri Omkar paid my share of savings from his pocket. After about a year, I took Rs. 4000 from my SHG and released the mortgage of our land. When I did this, my family members became very happy with me and I started getting a lot more respect and recognition in the family. Afterward, I took a loan of Rs. 9, 000 from the group and purchased a buffalo. Thus I had two livelihood activities, i.e., agriculture and dairy.  I also took Rs. 10,000 at the time of the marriage of my daughter.

For an illiterate woman like me, SHG was like a school. Because of SHG, I got the opportunity to step out of the home. I learned about health tips and eventually became a swasthy Sakhi in my block. I started volunteering to organize other women into SHGs and I could organize about 30 SHGs up to now. I also got the opportunity to go to other blocks like Masoli, Hariharpur, Beeswa, and Shahabad for SHG mobilization. In the last four years, I was able to break from the social barriers that I had to face as a woman. Now in my family, I am an integral part of each and every decision. In my block, I am considered a strong Community Resource Person. Now my dream is that every poor woman should come out of the clutches of moneylenders and prosper through their SHGs as I did.”

Rampal Meena and P S Mohanan, February 2019