“Being a LEADER is not about being liked. It’s about doing what’s RIGHT”, Sumitra an exemplary leader tells her story of coming out of extreme poverty, collectively with the whole poor community. She belongs to a Nishad (Kewat)community. The name of her village is Bhrigusari, of Gauribazar block of Deoria district.

She remembers the day when a team of Community Resource Persons (CRPs) from Andhra Pradesh supported by Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojan stayed in her village to mobilize Self Help Groups. When she felt convinced, she persuaded some women to form SHGs, she was strongly opposed, not only by her own community’s male folks but also by the feudal people. Facing various kinds of objections, threats, obstacles, she succeeded to mobilize three SHGs. Facing all threats and abuses, she with all other women, continued running their SHGs. Her belief in Self-help got stronger when she went on an exposure visit to Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, which was sponsored by RGMVP. “Seeing is believing”. When she came back, she herself started counseling women to form SHGs. Since then, 23 SHGs have been organized in her Gram Panchayat, with a strong Gram Sangathan.

Because of Sumitra’s leadership and initiatives, the real meaning of the term “Financial Inclusion” can be seen in this Gram Panchayat. The person who has explored the term “Financial Inclusion”, must have thought of this kind of financial empowerment. The name of Sumitra’s SHG is Rajmata Mahila Swayam Sahayata Samuh, with 11 members. All are from socially and economically weaker sections. Her SHG’s corpus is of Rupees One Lakh Eighty-Five Thousand with a CCL of Fifty Thousand. This SHG has also got financial assistance of  One Lakh Ten Thousand from National Rural Livelihood Mission. Altogether these eleven members have access to rupees Three Lakh Fifty thousand for revolving among them. All these amounts have utilized SHG funds well for enhancing livelihoods. Every member has availed multiple doses of loans from their SHGs.

Village Bhrigusari has some four hundred households. Out of these, two hundred sixty-five families of OBCs and SCs have been organized into SHG. All the SHGs have huge corpus. One Laxmi Mihaila SHG has a corpus of Rupees Five Lakh. Altogether they have a corpus of “Rupees thirty-eight Lakh ninety-eight thousand”, rupees twenty Lakh as CIF funds from NRLM, and rupees four lakh as Ajeevika and VRF funds. This means that the poor who were not having a single pie, are now, in a span of just seven years, could access to credit of Rs. 6.00 million.

This could not have been possible without Sumitra’s strong and timely decision to strep out and provide leadership against all odds. It is truly said, “women are natural and born leaders”.

Pankaj Srivastava, March 2019