TODAY -

Women in south Manipur turn to self-help groups for economic empowerment

Ninglun Hanghal *



Women living in the interior villages of south Manipur's Churachandpur district have come together to organise themselves into self-help groups (SHGs). Caught in the continuous cycle of poverty, here many families are unable to earn two square meals a day.

In the absence of basic amenities, most importantly connectivity in terms of public transport and communication, women collectives come as a huge relief to families whose primary occupation has been shifting cultivation (popularly known as Jhum cultivation) for all these years.

While forming the SHGs, a few points were kept in mind, including that no married woman gets left out, and every 10 to 15 members form one group. So, for instance, bigger villages like Bukpi with over 200 households have formed 14 SHGs, while smaller hamlets like V. Munlai with less than 20 households function as a single group.

Today, either individually or as groups, the women engage in economic activities such as piggery, poultry or farming ginger, turmeric, banana, chillies and other crops.

Loan cover

Under the North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP), an undertaking of the North East Council, Ministry of DoNER, the groups received support in the form of loan. The amount varies from ₹1,000 to ₹10,000 and covers over 362 villages across the district. The project also entailed training sessions and workshops to enable women to organise and learn the skills required for the economic activity.

In Bukpi village, Thangneihsang took a loan of ₹5,000 to start a piggery. She subsequently sold the adult pig for around ₹10,500, which helped fund the education of her two children and repay the loan. "I plan to extend my piggery and may be even start cattle-rearing," she says.

Niangzanem from the same village used the loan to expand her "pan dukan" a tiny shop selling betel nut and household essentials. "Now I sell shampoo, soaps, cold drinks, cosmetics, shoes, and first-aid material as well," says Niangzanem.

Opening roadside cafes that serve tea and snacks and double up as communication points for villagers has become popular. Kimneiting runs a small roadside hotel at Aina village while Phaphal has her own tea stall in her village Munlui. Both earn around ₹200 a day.

Several have initiated collective enterprises. In Joutung village, SHG members collect firewood from the forest and sell it to villagers. In Zalen village, a group has saved ₹1.6 lakh from income-generating activities.

"We plan to hike it to ₹2 lakh in the coming year," says Thetheim, secretary of the SHG. Thanks to the absence of markets in the area, groups buy essential items, including pulses, oil, sugar and soaps from Lamka (the capital town of the district), and sell them door to door. They have also initiated cleanliness drives.

In Tuilumjang village, they have put up dustbins at key locations. The women have also picked up management skills like record-keeping, financial literacy and saving. Kim, an SHG member from Tuilumjang, sums it up: "Earlier, organising ourselves was not easy. But now we have understood the strength of the collective".

This report first appeared in The Hindu (Business Line)


* Ninglun Hanghal sent this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at hanghal(DOT)ninglun(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on June 04, 2018.


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