As we travel through the barren and rocky outcrops of the Mangra Region of Rajasthan, about 55 KMs from Ajmer, we reach the remote kasba called Masuda. With hardly any rainfall and land holdings limited by the rocky terrain, people here hardly own more than 1-2 Bighas of land. A reality which forced most of the villagers to become migrant labour, locally known as Beldari (construction site coolies). This means of livelihood forced them to move away from their Kasba, work in hazardous conditions, denuded their self-respect and often left them in debt.
These conditions and a strong desire to alleviate the living conditions of the women from this backward region is what motivated the Sathan Mahila Sangh to set up Devnarayan Mahila Swayam Sahayatha Samooh (Self-help community). Its members, women largely from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, traditionally worked as labourers on construction sites and brick kilns.
With inputs from the self-group and active NGOs, the women started a small savings scheme and pooled enough money to start selling fancy items. The initial model involved women traveling across local settlements, something which was perceived a risky activity. To overcome this challenge, the community raised a loan of INR 3,19,000 and set up a retail outlet “Fancy Bazaar” in Masuda.
The efforts of these women fetched heart-warming results almost immediately. They started clocking sales of Rs.3000 to Rs.4000 per day.
This helped Devnarayan Mahila Sangh generate funds for itself as well as for its members and their families. Soon enough, the motion gained momentum and resulted in more women joining the group.
The courage and initiative of the first self-help group inspired the setup of seven more such self-help groups in this tiny decrepit village called Masuda. It has enabled women to escape from the need to migrate for livelihood and earn a respectable income with dignity.