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Sambhali Sheerni Self-Help Group Project

"No agency can provide welfare for millions of people until and unless it is coupled by people's own initiatives and efforts."
Mahatma Gandhi

In Setrawa and the surrounding villages, women are disadvantaged with illiteracy and little recognition for their capabilities, meaning they receive unequal access to material and human capital. Dalit women and widows in particular have little opportunity to work their way out of poverty.

The Sheerni Self-Help Group Project was established to help these women, by providing them with a means of saving money and access to loans, thus enabling them to create small enterprises of their own and work towards financial independence. Women are also given financial training, preparing them for production and business management, and enhancing their personal growth and self-esteem. The SHG Project was created in October 2009, in the villages of Setrawa and Solankiyatala, 110km from Jodhpur.

Through classes and loans, the Sheerni SHG Project enables women to recognize the potential, possibilities and alternatives that exist in their lives, and gives them the resources to pursue their goals. Currently this program includes around 85% Dalit women, many of them widows, whose husbands have died working in the stone quarries, a common but dangerous occupation in this area.

The Sheerni Project is a leading example of the power of micro-finance in India. Microfinance, (extending small loans to individual borrowers who have traditionally lacked access to credit), has become one of the most popular anti-poverty strategies throughout the world, as has proved effective in empowering communities and is easy to set up and sustain.

Pooshpa Sharma: "My husband runs a shop in the market. We thought that if we ran a shop from our home simultaneously, we would be more successful. I approached Sambhali Self-Help Group for a loan as it was interest-free, and we have 4 children to raise. With their help, I started the new shop, and am now in business with my husband, my children go to the Empowerment Centre for extra English. I am very happy

Imrat Kanwar
: In June 2011, Imrat Kanwar bought a grinding machine for grain with an internal loan, but realised that she couldn’t operate it as didn't have electricity in her house. She approached the Sarpanch (the elected village leader) asking for help. Within four days the Sarpanch had electricity poles erected, and organised electricity for her house. Since then, Imrat has given advice to others on how to apply for below poverty-level cards, ration cards, NAREGA Scheme (employment for villagers by government) cards and how to fight for their rights. 16 other women have now applied for electricity. Because of her enthusiasm and self –motivation, she has now been hired as a field worker, part of Sheerni's SHG team, serving as a model and coordinator for other women. We are very proud of her independence and confidence. It is truly encouraging to see how a little external support can really make a difference to a persons life.

Sheerni-women with their businesses