Making women financially independent

New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) Poverty-stricken women in some parts of the country have found succour in a government scheme that provides financial help to set up small businesses and skill-based training to make them financially independent.

Ajeevika, or the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), offers a ray of hope to these women from far-flung areas.

Take the case of Jasmin Malik from Orissa. Coming from an extremely poor family with no one with a proper job, she was able to get Rs.2 lakh to set up a Self Help Group (SHG).

The group, which has 36 women, began with tailoring and is now also stitching jute bags.

Over a period of time, the group has become so successful that at an exhibition, it sold products worth Rs 50 lakh. So much so that the group been able to repay the loan within two years.

Malik, 36, is all praise for the scheme, which gave the group the confidence to face the world and earn money.

"We have managed sales worth Rs.50 lakh at a recent exhibition. Now, we get respect at home. All our problems have been solved. Life has become wonderful," Mailk said with a beaming smile.

The scheme, which was launched by the rural development ministry in June 2011, aims at providing the rural poor the means to increase their household income through sustainable livelihood enhancements and improved access to financial services. It is aided in part through investment support from the World Bank. While 75 percent of the money is paid by the central goverment, the balance amount is given by the state government concerned.

NRLM has set out with an agenda to cover 70 million BPL households across 600 districts, 6,000 blocks, 250,000 gram panchayats and 600,000 villages through the SHGs. The mission will track them for 8-10 years.

Like Malik, Asha Bi from Kerala has the same sucess story to narrate.

The secretary of a local SHG, Asha Bi said its business is so successful that it is helping other women and families in distress too.

"Recently a woman lost her husband to AIDS; we ensured that the family got a house and widow pension," she said.

Similar is the story of Rubina, who hails from Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir.

"After my father passed away, I could not study. I always wanted to support my mother. I was trained for three months and now earn Rs.7,000-8,000 per month," Rubina said.

Rubina was trained under Himayat, a placement-linked skill development scheme under the NRLM for the youth of Jammu and Kashmir. It covers approximately 100,000 youths and is implemented through training providers from the private sector and NGOs.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said, "These schemes (under NRLM) are working without a hitch".

He said that under the Himayat scheme, 8,239 youths were trained, of whom 5,682 have now got jobs.

"Buoyed by this scheme, the government has recently launched programmes like Roshni for youth in Maoist-infested areas," a senior official of the rural development ministry told IANS.

(Sreeparna Chakrabarty can be contacted at sreeparna.c@ians.in)

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