Surya Kanti lives in the Biraguda village of Kandhamal district in Odisha. She comes from a community where girls getting married at early ages is the norm; her situation was no different from the others.

When CARE India’s Pathways initiated a women’s SHG (Self Help Group) in the area, Surya Kanti was determined not to let this opportunity pass. She encouraged the women in her family and 14 other women in her village to save Rs. 20 every month.

A year later, each woman now saves Rs. 30 every month. Seeing her persistence as well as that of other women in the group, Surya Kanti’s family gradually came around to stand by her, and her husband started helping her with maintaining the group’s records.

In addition to forming an SHG, the Pathways team helped the household adopt better agricultural practices. Surya Kanti has even developed a kitchen garden in her backyard. The family is happy because they do not have to buy expensive vegetables anymore to ensure a nutritious diet. Through Pathways, Surya Kanti learnt to make organic compost, which also helps her save the money.

It is unbelievable to see the kind of change that has been brought about in her since she joined the Maa Shanti Self Help Group (SHG). Her in-laws now describe her as the ‘pillar of strength’ within the family. Even to the villagers, she is an inspiration, and her courage is greatly admired.

The change in the attitude of her family members surprises her, but she is happy. She claims that becoming a part of CARE India ‘Pathways’ initiative boosted her self esteem to a great extent. The entire village folk have newfound respect for her as a leader, which she finds pleasantly surprising. “It’s a great feeling!” she exclaims.

A lot of things have changed in the past few years. Surya Kanti recalls how difficult it was for her to convince her family to be a part of the project and its activities. She had been to school until the seventh grade, which helped her understand the advantages of being a part of an SHG. Economic independence was her goal, for which she needed a mentor. She was also very keen on learning about newer cropping patterns. This motivated her to take the initiative and tell people in the village about SHGs and their benefits.

Surya Kanti is confident about her role and participation in the SHG which she says is like her “family” and her “strength”. Pathways programme is a six country initiative which aims to increase the productivity and empowerment of women smallholder farmers in more equitable agriculture systems at scale. This programme is currently being implemented with 12,000 women small land holders in Kalahandi and Kandhamal districts of Odisha. 

Posted By : Tapas Das
Location : Biraguda, Odisha