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‘Kitty parties’ a way to empower village women

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New Delhi: The women of rural areas are redefining the idea of ‘kitty parties’ as a tool for their empowerment in water-starved Nashik district of Maharashtra.

While the concept of ‘kitty parties’ is widely known in urban areas among rich women, these village women are using it as a collective power to reach out places.

In village after village in Nashik, the “kitty parties” are held, ironically, at Hindu temples, which some of these ladies were barred from entering until some years back.

Together the women of Khaprale, Chandrapur and Jamgaon villages of Nashik district have decided to fight the social evils and problems.

The changes were in part initiated by an NGO in collaboration with Hindustan Coco Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd, which has a major plant in the town of Nashik.

The women collectives today are like mini banks, encouraging women to save and lending out cash to those in need.

They have been working for six months bringing the village women together for their own good, said the members of NGO.

Over time, there has been a mini-revolution in many villages. But the effort paid off.

“Now, if we face a problem, it is our responsibility to find a solution. No one can help you all the time. We have started to think on our own and help ourselves and others solve their problems,” said 45 years old Sindhutai Sadfule with the confidence of a woman who has finally found her voice.

These women, members of Self Help Groups (SHG), deposit Rs.100 a month in a common bank account and maintain the details in a register. Money is lent out to villagers in need, not just to women, at a certain rate of interest.

“We have six to seven groups and each has 10-12 women. Once a request for loan comes up, we sit and decide whether or not the money is to be lent to a person,” explained Sunita Prakash, 27.

In case more than one person seeks a loan, “the money is lent keeping the priority and the importance of the work in mind. We give preference to the one who needs it the most”, added 28-year-old Meera Tadpe.

“We arrange everything on our own. We bring food and tea and lemon juice from our homes. At times we buy sweets too, taking out some money from our collective account,” said Vijaya Sabale, explaining the concept of “kitty parties”.

Sabale also expressed her gratefulness towards the village women who financially helped her in her son’s marriage.

“I had borrowed Rs.10,000 from the group and it helped us a lot in meeting the wedding expenditure,” she said. “I returned the loan in 10 months.”(IANS)

(Image Courtesy: washington.edu)

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Sikkim Holds Exceptionally Steady And Silent Progress In Improving The Lives Of Ordinary People

Given the track record, it may be safe to predict that Sikkim might be the first Indian state to offer solutions to the rest of India - and the world.

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sikkim
Sikkim, along with Meghalaya, occupies the top two positions in the best performing region of Northeast on women's empowerment index comprising of participation of women in household decisions, ownership of land, cell phones and bank account, and instances of spousal violence. Pixabay

Everyone knows that Sikkim is a small extraordinarily picturesque mountainous state tucked away in the Himalayas in the northeast of India. That indeed it is. Even today, there are only around 650,000 people living in the state. However, much less known about Sikkim to the rest of India – and also the world – is the exceptionally steady and silent progress in improving the lives of ordinary people that the state has recorded over the past two decades.

How did Sikkim achieve this? The obvious answer is that Sikkim, like many countries in the world, has ensured that policies that promote economic opportunities go hand-in-hand with policies that ensure an equitable expansion of health, education, nutrition and essential basic social services.

Less obvious is the critical role of political leadership in ensuring improvements in the lives of people. Ensuring that the additional tax revenues from economic growth are invested in expanding human capabilities does not happen automatically. Chief Minister Pawan Chamling – the longest serving Chief Minister of any Indian state – has prioritized investments in health, education and infrastructure like no other political leader has. After all, ensuring adequate funds for the social sectors is as much a function of the funds available as it is of making it a political priority. Very few political leaders in India and elsewhere recognize the importance of investing in people as Chamling does.

What goes even more unnoticed is the role that women have played in Sikkim’s development success. Traditionally women have enjoyed greater freedom in Sikkim than in many other parts of the country. The Sikkim Human Development Report revealed that the state had the best gender parity performance among the northeastern states, with female labour force participation at 40 per cent, much higher than the national average of around 26 per cent. In recent times, with the support of the state, they have played an active role in various spheres of life.

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Traditionally women have enjoyed greater freedom in Sikkim than in many other parts of the country.Pixabay

Sikkim’s women have exercised leadership by taking advantage of the available educational and development opportunities. This is revealed by the progress on multiple indicators from NFHS 3 to NFHS 4 recorded by Sikkim. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 4), 41 per cent women in the state have 10 or more years of schooling – much better than the country’s average of 36 per cent. Only 15 per cent women, age 20-24 years, were married before age of 18 years as against the national average of 27 per cent. There are only 3 per cent teenage pregnancies in the state placing Sikkim as the best among the northeastern states. The infant mortality rate in the state is 30 against national average of 34. Sikkim has improved its performance with regard to safe delivery remarkably by 43 per cent points from NFHS 3 to 97 per cent in NFHS 4, the best in northeastern states.

Sikkim, along with Meghalaya, occupies the top two positions in the best performing region of Northeast on women’s empowerment index comprising of participation of women in household decisions, ownership of land, cell phones and bank account, and instances of spousal violence.

Women in Sikkim are more empowered to take decisions than women in other parts of the country. According to NFHS-4, in 2015-16, 85 per cent women have the freedom of movement, including to market, health facility and places outside the village or community compared to national average. Almost all (95 per cent) of currently married women in Sikkim participate in household decisions as against national average of 84 per cent. Nearly 80 per cent women in the state have mobile phones for personal use against 46 per cent at the national level. Close to two-thirds (64 per cent) of women in Sikkim – as against just over half 953 per cent) of women across India – have a bank or savings account that they themselves operate. Only 3 per cent ever married women have ever experience spousal violence as against 29 percent nationally – the lowest across Indian states.

Sikkim has, however, many things to worry about. This includes creating jobs for its young people within the state, improving the quality of education, protecting residents from natural disasters, expanding infrastructure and so on. Equally worrisome is the sharp decline in total fertility rate (TFR) – 1.2 in 2015-16 – which is well below the replacement level of 2.1. This sharp decline in TFR might have also contributed to the worsening of the female-to-male ratio at birth from 984 in 205-06 to 809 in 2015-16.

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Sikkim has, however, many things to worry about. This includes creating jobs for its young people within the state, improving the quality of education, protecting residents from natural disasters, expanding infrastructure and so on. Pixabay

The reduced TFR is not good news as it may result in an age-structural transformation wherein Sikkim, like Kerala, will have to address the challenges of an aging population. This could get manifested in the short supply of workers as well as a further decline in the sex ratio. With shrinking active labour force, Sikkim’s economy could experience loss in economic output and possibly a decline in income levels. There could also be an increase in the elderly dependency ratio and morbidity levels on account of a rise in non-communicable diseases. Sikkim will have to mobilize the resources needed to extend financial support of the elderly and make provisions to address, in particular, their health care needs. It will also have to deal with the challenge of declining fertility rates.

Also Read: Millennium City Is Witnessing Rise In Illegal Trade Of Marijuana

These challenges may not come as a surprise to the political leadership in Sikkim. They should not given how well Chief Minister Chamling and the executive are connected the people. Given the track record, it may be safe to predict that Sikkim might be the first Indian state to offer solutions to the rest of India – and the world. (IANS)