Income generating scheme were included Community Health Care Programme were implemented in the area to educate the people in matter of health concern. With the above programme, REAL aimed at solving some of the crucial problems of the area and above all the people of the area.
REAL as a social service society works with the goal of improving the Socio- Economic conditions of the poor. It is our strong feeling that economic problems, i.e,lack of employment opportunities, low wages , poor or inadequate resource base and the lack of productive assets are at the root of rural poverty. Thus while attacking poverty, we have to necessarily look into means of overcoming these problems. Thrift programme in women Sangams is an effective means to tackle economic problems of the rural poor.
Involvement in Savings Thrift Programmes
By the word ‘Thrift’, we mean organising the people to save whatever than can, for later use in the time of need and thereby increasing the financial resource within the community itself. It is our experience that the rural poor, despite their low wages, can put aside some amount, for use during crises situation.
During this period if a new comer happens to visit the harijan colony of Vedasandur area during the early hours of sunday morning, he would be surprised to see 5 to 7 two wheelers roaming here and there in the ST colony areas. The persons in the two wheelers are no other than the private money lenders.
Our study about this phenomena revealed that out of the total 130 families, 90% of them, got into the clutches of the private money lenders who exploit the poor by charging a high interest of 15% per month. Normally the money lenders give a small amount ranging from Rs.100 to 500. For a loan of Rs.100/- he retains Rs.10/- as document charge and gives only Rs.90 to the party. The borrower has to repay Rs. 12.50 every week for 10 weeks. So the borrower has to pay a sum of Rs.125 for the amount of Rs.90/ within 2 1/2 months. But in urgent situations, the interest rate goes upto 25% per month. Normally these people borrow money for their consumption needs of food, illness, death and some times the money is borrowed for the additional family expenditure of festivals to purchase the agricultural inputs, children’s education and so on.
These poor people found it difficult to fulfill all the procedures required to get loan form the financial institutions and moreover the financial institutions do not have facility to issue the small amounts. If the loan was to meet out their consumptional needs, the only way they had was to borrow it from the private money lenders with high rate of interest.
This problem was discussed in depth in our Women Sangam at Kalagoundapatty. At the end, the members felt the need for a group saving and circulating the amount within the members. So all the 20 members of Kalagoundanpatty Women Sangam had started to save a sum of Rs. 10 per month . The norms for borrowing the money was formulated by members themselves with the assistance of our staff. This was the begining of thrift system in Kalagoundapatty colony in May’93’. By the end of fifth month that group had saved a total amount of Rs. 1,300/ and that amount was rotated among group members.
The people of Viralipatty colony, Palapatty colony, Karungulam colony, Kulathupatty colony, Puduvanikarai, Kuruvanoor and Alachankulam, R.P.Pallapatty, and Vallipatty colony were also followed as the people of Kalagoundenpatty. The people of these villages were harijans (99%) and mostly agricultural coolies. Due to unemployment the people had no other way but to borrow money from the private money lenders who charged exorbitant rates of interest. So it becomes necessary to educate and to make the people to save REAL gave a matching grant to free them from the clutches of private money lenders, and to plan and start small income creating programme for their welfare. It is in this context that the thrift programme was planned for these ten villages. The Women Sangams at these villages have started discussing of starting the group saving system and circulating the amount within themselves for their urgent need. Our staff facilitated these discussions during the sangams meetings.
The women Sangams appealed for some financial help from the institution besides their saving amount for the thrift system. This request of the women sangams was studied and we felt that it was fruitful if a matching grant was given in order to make the thrift programme operationally viable. This matching grant which the donor contributed was of great help for the rural poor women to plan and to take up small economic development activities, taking into account there resources, skill and interest with the following objectivities.
To encourage the saving habit of women and to help them financially in times of urgent need as to free them the clutches of private lender.
To create financial resources within the community for the productive schemes, such as poultry, cattle rearing, shoe making, agro-forestry, weaving etc.
To develop the skill of the women in financial management
To develop unity and Co-operative among rural women
Organisation made frequent and periodical visits to the villages during the evening time when women were at home. In each village , women interested in savings, and nearby women sangam were identified and motivated. Regular meetings were organised in the village itself. The process of regular meeting with women discussion of training programmes resulted in formation of village level women sangam in all the five villages. The organisation of women sangams, with elected leader, committee, trainings enrolling membership, enlightening on the principles of collective functioning , arriving at collective decision were given . Group dynamics, awareness on their problems, developing perspectives and skill in critical analysis, have brought women together under the organisational fold and functional groups, taking up problem concerning basic amenities, rural sanitations etc.
The project orientation training had positive impact in under standing the need for united organisation. But the feasibility of savings, its future prospects for self reliance remained doubtful as they were too poor, with every month deflicit even to meet their very basic and needs of life.
The closer interaction with the participants and frank discussion revealed that women lack proper budgeting of their family income and expenditure, and rational management control of available resources in their rural living and working environments.
By October ‘95’ REAL organised Women sangam in all the 50 villages, mobilising them around issues problems of their day to day confrontation, over their immediate needs of life. While the village meetings on trainings concentrated on immediate needs of life and rallying point of women, due care was given to impart knowledge on awareness on long term needs of life to be sustainable and free from exploitative situation.
System Building :
In each village, sangams were organised, office bearers and committee were elected. Schedule for regular meetings, trainings for conducting meetings, democratic decision making, collective responsibilities, identifying village/ women problems, prioritising issues, action strategies for redressal, democratic approach, were key topics of discussion and training with due focus an gender perspectives.
Women Sangams addressing common problems
The women Sangams in the target villages besides involving in natural resources management and goat -rearing programmes are actively involved in the following programmes. Regular monthly meetings of women sangams were held to review the activities and to plan future programmes.
Addressing village basic amenities like Drinking Water, Street light, Transport facilities, Group houses, Free hut light service etc., by pressurizing the Government to fulfill their demands. It also dealt with women issues mostly family disputes to render justice to the affected women; Rendared solidarity support to the affected women of other areas; and Engaged in the campaign work to prevent early marriage.
The Women Sangams engaged in the elimination of illicit liquor sales at their villages.
The women Sangams were involved in equipping all their members to read and write.
These activities helped the women sangams to get the reconciliation of the public and at the same time met with opposition from the vested interest groups. At the same time sangams are growing in number and strength.