Hindalco – empowering women of Sambalpur

Bhubaneswar: Not long ago, Basanti Maharana from the Hirakud village of Sambalpur district was struggling to meet daily needs – the elementary ones, two square meals and a roof above her head for her two kids and her husband. Basanti and her husband a daily wage labourer, belong to the marginalized. But it’s always good to dream and make those dreams come true. Like all mothers Basanti too nurtured aspirations – sending both her children to a good school, to give them a quality education. But her family’s condition as well as her husband’s meager income could get her nowhere!

But life changed one day for Basanti and her husband, and families like theirs. This was when Hindalco, a unit of the Aditya Birla Group, started promoting “Sanskar” a Self-Help Group (SHG). On Sanskar says, Mr. Rajesh Gupta, Head of Hindalco’s Hirakud Cluster, “We are concerned about the welfare of women from this region and by promoting the SHGs we want to instill among them a sense of entrepreneurship and independence so that they can live with dignity and self-esteem”.

“We have seen visible progress happening here in Hirakud. Our engagement not only promotes SHGs but empowers women to become entrepreneurs by helping them to start independent business such as tailoring, phenyl making etc.”, he added.

Founded with only 13 members initially in December 2008, it has come a long way. Initially Basanti and many other women from the village were motivated to deposit Rs.100/- each to the common fund of the Group. With the accumulated fund they were lending small sums amongst themselves, to those who were in need of funds either to do some business or to meet family urgencies.

Hindalco helped the Group to open an account with the local UCO Bank. They were sanctioned loans to start their small business of Papad and Badi making – both food items. Hindalco facilitated their being trained for maintenance of the books of accounts. They began their business with a working capital of Rs.2,600/-. Today this SHG has been assigned by the Government to supply 180 quintals of Chatua per month to 105 Anganwadi. Chatua is an Odia food delicacy. From this business, the revenue generated on an average is Rs.49.68 lakh per year. The per capita income of each member after meeting all expenses, on an average is Rs.3500-4000 p.m. This has made a difference to their income and a qualitative difference to their lives. They have now become Social Change agents in their area.

Now all the SHGs have a bank account. Many of them are taking loans from the bank to run their income generation activities. Up until now there are 54 SHGs promoted by Hindalco, with a total deposit of about Rs.44 lakh and Rs. 42.75 lakhs as loan from the bank for their enterprises.

Hindalco’s empowerment schemes are touching and changing lives in Sambalpur. As of now, the company is supporting 54 SHGs in the Hirakud area. Initially, these SHGs were taught how to mobilize savings, maintain accounts, become familiar with inter-lending norms and establish credit linkages with banks.

Once the members became familiar with these, Hindalco undertook a second phase of development — running training programs on system establishment and norm setting, book keeping, leadership development, communication, conflict resolution, etc. All this hard work has shown results. Today some of the Self Help Groups promoted by Hindalco are at a stage where they can take up quite a few income generation activities. Some of these include the running of rice hullers and the opening of grocery shops.

Sums up Mrs Puspanjali Mishra, CDPO, Dhanakauda, Sambalpur, and Mrs. Sanghamitra Mohapatra, DSWO, Sambalpur, “Hindalco has rendered yeomen service by training women in various income generating activities and also giving them the requisite material back-ups. These interventions have given the much needed support to the SHGs and have gone a long way in enabling them to become self-reliant”.

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