Breaking the Cycles of Poverty and Silence

By Tyler McClelland, Communications Officer
& Trishikh Dasgupta, Project Officer – Communication

On any given day, Sangita Devi can be found traveling throughout Jharkhand, India, meeting with groups of women from small villages like her own. Like many states in eastern India, Jharkhand has one of the highest concentrations of poverty in the country. More than a third of its 33 million citizens are unable to regularly meet their most basic needs for food, shelter, healthcare, or education.

Sangita works with women living in extreme poverty and her mission is to help them tackle its many obstacles and build a better quality of life.

But Sangita didn’t always enjoy such freedom or feeling of purpose. She lives in Getulsud, a village in Jharkhand that’s not only small but isolated, and where women—especially those living in extreme poverty—enjoy very little independence. They're often not allowed to leave their homes for extended periods or even travel long distances on their own. Childhood marriage is not uncommon and Sangita was married in her early teens. She moved into her in-laws’ house to be with her husband. Even within her home she had little voice or independence. Sangita dreamed of breaking the cycles of extreme poverty and silence she witnessed all around her and carve out a meaningful place for herself in her home and community.

The path wasn’t easy.

When the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society formed self-help groups in her village, Sangita started to participate in group activities secretly, without the knowledge of her husband’s family. When women organize into self-help groups, they not only gain a safe place to save and access credit, they gain a support system outside the home where they can seek advice and rely on one another. After her initial training, Sangita informed her husband about her work. And, although he was initially apprehensive, he supported her decision. Her community wasn’t as supportive; some even mocked her and branded her as an upstart.

But today, five years later, as a Community Resource Person with Trickle Up and Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society, Sangita travels from village to village helping women break those cycles by organizing self-help groups. She coaches them on how to raise crops or livestock, run a successful business, and earn a reliable income. She also helps them gain access to banking and other financial services. If they qualify for an existing government service (some of which provide free pre-natal care or even grants to build a modest home) Sangita helps them get it. She also teaches them leadership: how to run their own successful self-help group, be more active in household decision-making, and speak out for community improvements like better roads and wells.

As Sangita says, “A woman can contribute and benefit much more when she joins with other women.”

Trickle Up’s partnership with Jharkhand and other states and local partners in India will empower women like Sangita to lift another 100,000 women and their households in the coming years.