Samari Utthan Sewa | Time changed by cooperative and collective leadership
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Time changed by cooperative and collective leadership

Time changed by cooperative and collective leadership

Sarimaya Magar, a woman from ethnic community was illiterate and landless. She did not have any options of income. She was distressed to take loans in high interest whenever difficulty aroused in her family.

SUS formed a women’s SHG in the village. In the starting phase, she would think that the SHG is futile for anything. One of her neighbors requested her for the membership of SHG’s. There were many landless and Santhal people in the group. Moreover, single women and women with disabilities were also in the group.

SUS provided various training to enhance knowledge of women from the underprivileged section of the society through income generating skills and promoting entrepreneurship, leadership development and vocational training etc.

Once Sarimaya gained these training she felt that her confidence rose. As she was in the group, she felt that she could do something on her own. SUS provided grants for grazing goats, boar, chicken etc. Somebody gained training to grow vegetables professionally. Poor and dependent one thousand students got scholarships. This practice motivated women to save a little money. So, they created a women’s saving group once all of the group members saved on a common basis every month.

She said, “before creating such a group, no women had some money in their own pocket. They had to be dependent on their husbands whenever they needed money.” The group started to save 10 rs per month in initial days. Then later on in Poush, 2071 VS, they formed a popular cooperative, Charchit Mahila Krishi Sahakari Sanstha. The cooperative had 265 members in its initial days, which now have 585. They had few capitals which now reached 4 lakh 5 million 19 thousand rupees. Sarimaya successfully reached the position to lead the institution.

In the early days, she did not have the proper idea to calculate also. How would she run the cooperative? How to call for the meeting? How to address controversial issues? Sarimaya did not have answers to these questions. But, as she kept on working in the group, she started to know many things. The leadership training, cooperative management training provided by SUS started to increase her confidence level.

Earlier, Sarimaya used to feel odd to speak in public. But now, she leads meetings. Sarimaya has her own identity. So, not only people from her own village know her, but also from neighboring villages she is identified as chair of cooperative. She happily shared, “some 5/600 sisters know me. Some government officials also listen to me.”

Sarimaya is not limited to cooperative activities. She is actively engaged in working for justice in issues of violence against women, managing development works in community also. She said that she has helped many women facing problems of multiple marriage, engaging poor people in income generating skills. Cooperative has started to sell pesticides at a low price so farmers no longer have to go to other markets.

Once cooperative was established, the local women started to get easy loans for cheap interest so that they could start some entrepreneurship. She said, “Now, we do not have to beg with the local sàhu for a small amount of money in higher interest. Many people have started to earn with the loan from the cooperative.”

Sarimaya has many stories of her own upto the day she started leading the cooperative. Earlier, she had to have a fingerprint as her signature, but now, she can write her name. She has learnt to use mobile, for this her sister-in-law helped. Now, “my phone keeps on ringing. I am busy with many meetings and discussions.”

SUS had formed 35 SHG in Rangeli and Kanepokharii. Also, it formed 4 tole bikash samitee (area development committee). Having members from each SHG and tole bikash samuha, 2 representatives and 1 nominated member have been running Pratibaddha Mahila Utthan Samaj (a CBO formed under SUS’s project). This was formed under the leadership of women. The institution has its own land and office building. SUS provided some support, and some locals gave 3 dhur land and they added 2 dhur land in their own effort and constructed an office building. They asked for help from the Municipality office for insufficient money. Thus, Pratibaddha Mahila Utthan Samaj has its own land and building. Sarimaya said, “In the initial days, we did not know that the municipal office would help us. I felt, we can have some strength once we have a group. Moreover, we were supported by the local government also.”

Pratibaddha Mahila Utthan Samaj was registered in government records in 2072 VS. It evolved from a small women’s group established by SUS. Anita Mardi, chair of the group, told that they have been working in sanitation programs, mitigation of violence against women, awareness increments etc. The group is seeking to have some income generation activities via CBOs. It has been showing some income generating ways to women who are trying to start some entrepreneurship but they are unable due to money. They call meetings every 15 days. Women in the group share their difficulties, personal and social problems. After the meeting, they decide the module of the group, support the needy ones.

Anita joined the adult literacy class given by SUS and she has been increasing her capacity in various skills, and also, she has already been chair of the Pratibaddha Mahila Utthan Samaj.  She has been chairing for 9 years and also, she worked as community facilitator of SUS for two years. Anita says that had SUS been not established, she would be busy in household chores only like other women do.

They have been utilizing 17 lakh rupees, supported by SUS, for income generating things and uplift the condition of women in different titles. Samaj has been providing different training, in support of SUS, of leadership development for women, concepts and laws of cooperatives. She said, “women have been able to narrate their voice; the same women came from the society which perceives that woman should not go outside from home. They have been able to earn whatever amount they could.”

Anita has been working in the community, and local political parties have been planning to motivate Anita to give candidacy in Ward member in local elections. She is now a management committee member of a local school named Laxmi Aadharbhut Prathamik Bidhyalaya.

SUS has practiced similar things in Haripur, Sarlahi and Madi, Chitawan. This has not been fruitful for underprivileged community from Dalit and other ethnic Woman’s Group, rather whole society has been gaining advantage.

Charchit Mahila Utthan Krishi Sahakari Sanstha (a Cooperative) is established in Haripur, Sarlahi, in the same manner as Rangeli. Urmila Kumari Nepali is its chair. She has many stories of her journey from Woman’s Group   towards development of cooperative. She joined the adult literacy class provided by SUS, this developed her confidence towards her path of becoming the chair of the cooperative.

Urmila was afraid to introduce herself when she became a member of the group for the first time and attended the meeting. She remembered the day, “I wept because of being scared.” But now, those days have gone. Earlier, she was illiterate. Now, she chairs the cooperative and signs in the minute of meetings. She is not only able to introduce herself now, but she can put the voices of other women like her, fight for women rights and justice.

She is chair of the cooperative which has 360 members and 60 lakh rupees as savings. The transaction of the cooperative comes to be nearly 1 crore, adding all other loans granted to members. In order to make women independent and self-reliant, the cooperative has been giving loans for grazing cattle like chicken, boar or starting a general store (kirànà pasal).

Many women have been into their business of vegetable production, cattle grazing from the cheap-interest loan provided by the cooperative. Urmila narrates, “gone are the days when we had to beg a few amounts of money with local sàhu. Many women have their own savings now. They are able to initiate some business with the loan that cooperative gives.”

Urmila’s confidence has increased once she became chair of the cooperative. She is known as a woman having leadership skills in her community. She said, “I have grown up in the society where women are not allowed to come out of their home, people backbite about women. Now, I can work hard day and night for the betterment of the cooperative. Now, local leaders have been proposing to give candidacy in the upcoming local level election.”

Locals from rural Madi, Chitawan rarely knew about the concept of cooperative. They were having quite difficult days in taking high-interest loans from local sàhu-mahajans. The source of their income was based on traditional methods of vegetable farming and grazing cattle. Because of this traditional method, they were not able to earn as much money as expected. The Locals did not know anything about entrepreneurship. Nobody had taught them about doing the agro-business of vegetable farming and cattle grazing in modern methods.

Amidst these days, SUS promoted locals of Madi, 8, Kantipur, to open a cooperative. SUS made groups among locals so that discussion about cooperative and methods to run it can be taught to the people. With the support of SUS, cooperative, Suryodaya Sahakari Sanstha was registered in 2075 VS. SUS constructed the building of cooperative so that it could run smoothly. This cooperative has 84 households. The locals saved 100 rs per month in earlier days.

In order to increase the income of locals, SUS not only gave vegetable growing training, but also gave training on putting proper manure and pesticides and saving plants from various diseases. It also gave ideas about seasoned vegetables. Once the income of the locals increased, they also increased their savings. Earlier it was 100 per month and now it is 500 per month.

Once the establishment of cooperative, the locals started to sit and discuss various problems and its remedies they could take. Indra Bahadur Adhikari, the chair of cooperative, narrates that once the cooperative was established, a confidence has been built up among locals and they can go to the government seeking help.

Two years back, cooperative representatives went to the Ministry of Agriculture of their province along with the Rural Municipality Chair. They requested to solve the problem of drinking water in the community. At that time, they knew that the province government brought a proposal of land management and was seeking to support.

All the members of the group sat together and discussed the matter. They started to collect the documents demanded by the government. The members of cooperative had some pieces of land which had problems with ploughing with tractors, irrigating in a managed way so that the land could function well. Those having less land were not able to take advantage.

Once the locals submitted the documents via Province government the process went forward. With the module provided by the government, they managed the 50 bigha land. The Province Government gave more than 3 crore rupees as a grant so that cooperative could move forward for agricultural purposes. The cooperative bought two tractors, a land-ledger machine, two numbers of paddy cutting machines, and two high-tech tunnels. Now, cooperative has started to fish farming making 20 ponds in 8 hectares of land. 5-5 members of group is formed in community so that they can engage in fish farming. With coordination with the Province Government, the cooperative has two staff who handle machines and 1 staff to manage the office.

Before land management, the locals could not cultivate their land. There was also a lack of human resources. The ploughing and digging instruments were not readily available. Indra told, “the condition of farmers who would not be able to pay off their debts has been changed. Those having less land are also able to grow more and income more once the cooperative provides managerial and economic support.” People have stopped selling the small pieces of land once the land management is started.

Local people’s economic status has increased with the coordination of cooperative and SUS. Moreover, this has played a role in decreasing caste-based discrimination in society. Indra told, “people co-work together, so the caste hierarchy has also decreased.”