The Anibhitha village of Kunjbona Panchayat is a remote hamlet that is part of the Littipara community development block about 40 kilometers from Pakur, Jharkhand, India. It is home to the Pahariya Tribe—one of India’s Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG). For outsiders, it can take years to gain the trust of this small, isolated community.
Trickle Up and the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS) began working in Anibhitha in 2017. After many visits from the field staff and regular dialogues with community members, they recognized the economic and empowering potential for the village in setting up a functional savings group—known as Self Help Groups in India.
So was born the Surajmukhi Self Help Group.
“We have been part of the group for four years now, but understood the importance of meeting regularly and saving regularly a little later,” said Rani Paharia, the treasurer of the Surajmukhi Self Help Group. “Didi (field staff) used to come and talk to us often and explain why we should sit for regular meetings and start saving money.”
Once the group started meeting regularly, they realized that they had also found a support system, a group of women in similar situations who could understand and offer advice on the problems they faced at home, and try to figure out solutions together. It gave the women a strength they had earlier not known.
“In the group we also discuss the importance of cleanliness and healthy habits. Slowly, we are changing the way we used to live and are becoming better,” said Rani. “We discuss the problems that we face, of water supply, the need for better roads and how to eradicate poverty from our village, so that everyone lives a happy life.”
Slowly, saving INR 10 (US $0.13) each week became a habit. When members of the family fell ill or anyone needed money in a dire situation, the women started taking out small loans from the group at very low interest rates and repaying them in the stipulated time.
“It took us a while to understand how saving INR 10 every week was going to change our lives,” said Rani. “Back then, INR 10 used to seem impossible to take out from the little money we used to have.”
Being part of the savings group also helped them get access to their entitlements such as a bank account, electronic Aadhaar identification cards, job cards, inclusion in the pension program, and the dakiya program for ration and the housing scheme from the government.
Today the SHG has been able to save INR 15000 (US $200).
“I have a five-year-old son who is now going to school. My husband helps with the proceedings of the savings group,” said Rani. “The big difference in me is that now I can think ahead and dream about a different life. This is the first time in my life that I am thinking of increasing my income. In the future, I want to start practicing farming so that I can generate more income for my family.”
“I want to change my destiny.”