Greetings from Seva Mandir!
Hope you are well. Earlier we told you about an MBA course that has been organized for SHG leaders. The program that you support offers a variety of oppurtunities to these leaders. The MBA course is one such opportunity. My colleagues have shared with me a blog that was written by one of the resource persons of this MBA program.
Also, a two day training on 8th and 9th September 2011 was conducted for 40 women leaders. The training focused on developing basic understanding on gender and included session on concept of sex and gender, patriarchy and socialization.
In addition, I also have some more news including a brief study carried out by one of our volunteers on the status of microcredit activities in our region. This time, my letter brings you a flavor of thoughts expressed by people who have been associated with the program you are supporting. Please find these snippets below my letter.
I really hope you will enjoy reading about a different perspective of this work you champion. In my next letter to you, in a month, you will get to know the facts and figures of this program; as I will share with you the half yearly report of the program "Rural Women Support their Family And Villages".
Once again, thank you very much for being with us and supporting thousands of women of Rajasthan. Please do write to me in case of any queries.
With warm regards,
1) The MBA program for women entrepreneur:
Ms. Zenobia Driver (a resource person for CREAM conducted for rural entrepreneurs) wrote a blog on Urja-Soy project of Seva Mandir. The blog gives details about problems in managing micro enterprises, market reach and its derived learnings.
She is currently working as Director at Escape Velocity (A business strategy and marketing consulting firm based in Mumbai). She also worked as a Senior Consultant with Momentum Strategy and as a Senior Product Manager with Johnsons and Johnsons.
She wrote: "In spite of having a lower-priced healthier product to offer, Urja initially struggled to grow. There were two main reasons for this – one, most people in Udaipur were not aware of the health benefits of soya paneer and were not sure how it would benefit them, and two – the taste of soya paneer is different from that of paneer from milk, which is what people are used to. There is also a third problem of a reduced shelf life (2-3 days for Soya Paneer vs. 2 weeks for milk paneer), but this is less of an issue. Thus the key challenges facing Urja were to raise consumer awareness of the health benefits of paneer and to make the health benefit relevant, also to overcome the barrier of taste". Read her full blog on the following link http://escape-velocity-blog.com/2011/06/30/%e2%80%98need-but-don%e2%80%99t-want%e2%80%99-%e2%80%93-solutions-from-a-microenterprise/
(CREAM stands for Course in Rural Entrepreneurship, Administration and Management. It’s a curriculum designed and taught by industry professionals, NGO Leaders and academicians. It’s a part time MBA program designed for rural businessmen and employees of NGO’s running various livelihood projects. 18 people including 10 staff associated with the savings and credit programme and 8 rural entrepreneurs are associated with this programme)
2) What a recent study on Microcredit says:
A study on ‘An investigation into the status, problems and effectiveness of microcredit” was carried out by two volunteers in Urban and Badgaon Blocks during February to May 2011. The purpose of the study was to investigate the nature of microfinance, evaluate the risks of a crisis similar to that of Andhra Pradesh occurring in this region and investigate the effectiveness of microfinance as a tool for increasing socio-economic wellbeing.
The study revealed that there are 6 MFIs - Basix, SKS, Janalakshmi, Sahayata and Equitas and Asmitha operating in Urban block and one MFI – Sahayata, also operational in Badgaon block. It also reflected that there is very little indication of any potential crisis due to MFIs in the near future, in this area. The interest rates are not unreasonably high, the number of loan per borrowers, at 1.8, is also within reasonable limits. Coercion by MFI employees is not something that was mentioned by borrowers and by far the majority intended to take future loans. However there existed the practice of taking commission by group leaders acting as middlemen between the MFIs and the borrowers as well as the issues of ‘fake lenders’ where deposits were taken without a loan being issued. For example - in one of the panchayats – Dhar, of Badgaon block in our area, a women claiming to be from an MFI took money from 35 people, Rs 1000 from each and promised to provide loan on that basis. The organization never visited the area again, and those who had given Rs.1000 did not receive a refund or their promised loan. No one knew this organization and our attempts of contacting them were not successful either. The organization has not been heard from, and attempts to contact them have been unsuccessful.
3) Visitors in the city - observing women's meeting
The Programme Officer CHF (Co-operative Housing Foundation) International – India, along with her 4 team members visited a women’s group associated with Sadhna (Women’s handicraft enterprise) and Pula SHG cluster (an association of 15 SHGs) of Urban block during 26 to 27 May 2011. The visiting team participated in Pula Kachi Basti’s cluster meeting. They appreciated the way the meeting was conducted and felt happy to see the functioning of cluster and active participation of women. They were also happy to see the well maintained records and the rules and regulations especially related to loan disbursement and repayment. The visitors also appreciated the fact that women also discussed social issues along with issues related to savings and credit.
Story of Kalu:
Hope you are well. The monsoon has come to Rajasthan last week. Everyone is excited to have clouds in the sky and hoping to have a good monsoon year.
I am sharing the annual report of our Self Help Group (SHG) program that you are supporting. The report accounts detailed information on the total number of SHGs currently running as well as the total savings of these groups. In the last two years the efforts have been made in strengthening the smooth functioning of SHGs. A number of trainings and workshops that were organized during the reporting period which helped the participants learn skills of auditing of SHGs, profit distribution, qualitative monitoring, standardization of SHG norms and streamlining MIS (monitoring information system).
This year the SHGs took a step ahead and began to contribute towards the costs for auditing and book keeping. The groups are happy at their self-reliance they are achieving gradually.
The performance of SHGs is measured on the basis of six main indicators – regular meetings, regular savings, regular attendance, principal repayment, interest repayment, and safe portfolio.
After the audit in March 2010, for the first time, during April – June 10, profit distribution was done in all the SHGs. For this initially the criteria for profit distribution was discussed with the groups and it was decided that since it was being done for the first time, it should be based on total savings of members.
Seva Mandir has collaborated with a team of consultants for a short course (6 months) on Rural Entrepreneurship, Administration and Management. It’s a curriculum designed and taught by industry professionals, NGO Leaders and academicians. It’s a part time MBA program designed for rural businessmen and employees of NGO’s running various livelihood projects. For more details please see the report enclosed.
Following is a brief fact sheet for your quick reference –
1. By the end of March 2011, we had 528 SHGs with 7,981 women members.
2. The total savings of these SHGs is Rs. 19,055,983 (USD 423,466).
3. The SHGs in the urban settings are outperforming the ones set up in rural areas. Interest repayment rate is 95 to 100% for all blocks except for Jhadol. The portfolio at risk is very high for Kherwara and Badgaon Block. Please see the report enclosed for more details.
4. The members received a profit of Rs. 2,385,169 (USD 53,004) from their SHGs.
5. During this period 85 campaigns (one day each) were organized in all blocks, in which 2,556 women from 174 SHGs participated. These campaigns mainly focused on the concepts of SHGs, performance indicators and addressing the specific problems of the SHGs.
6. Six training programs were organized focusing on enhancing the skill for accountancy.
I very much hope that you will enjoy reading all the progress these women are making with your help. Many thanks to all of you for your continuing support to this program. Please do write to us if you have any queries. We will keep you updated about the progress of this program as well as about the monsoon.
Hope you are well. Thank you for your continuing support. We are very grateful to you donations and inputs.
Every time with our letter to you, we wish to acquaint you with Seva Mandir a bit more. In this letter, you will get to know about the process of our business planning.
Seva Mandir focuses on communities rather than on individuals. The belief is that in order to bring about the durable changes in the society, the constructive work involving all the community members is important because social problems are complex. It therefore takes longer but the outcomes are more sustainable and long lived. Therefore, Seva Mandir has a three pronged strategy –
1) To create and strengthen institutions for development (at the village, organization and society levels)
2) To enhance people’s capabilities for self-development (both at individual and community level); and
3) To create sustainable improvements in the livelihoods base.
Our bottom-up approach allows creating stakes for every section of society to participate in their own development. We very much hope that you will enjoy knowing about our business planning phase that we are going through right now.
It has been a very hot summer here in Rajasthan this year. We are now all prepared to welcome the monsoon which should be here in the next week and half. Gradually it is getting humid day by day and we are trying not to let the rising temperatures affect us and are currently in the midst of the exciting organization wide planning process to develop our 7th Comprehensive Plan.
The Comprehensive Plan outlines the strategic direction and action-plans for Seva Mandir over the next three-year plan period (2012-2015).
Seva Mandir has been preparing Comprehensive Plans since 1990 as a way to systematically review and evolve its near-term strategic priorities across all programmatic areas. The process of putting together the Comprehensive Plan also serves as an opportunity for Seva Mandir to reflect upon the work we have done, examine the environment we work in and evolve our strategies accordingly, within the context of past lessons learned and the overall long-term vision of the organization.
The process for creating the 7th Comprehensive Plan began in late 2010 and includes all levels of Seva Mandir’s tiers viz. - from the villages where we work all the way up to the Chief Executive Officer. The Comprehensive Plan process is consistent with Seva Mandir’s bottom-up approach, with the kick-off meetings taking place at the village level with the Chief Executive present. After these initial meetings, the staff members at the zone and block offices had an opportunity to share their thoughts, observations and information. Using the information gathered from the field, the Programs devised their strategies for the upcoming years. These were presented to the organization as a whole, where debate, discussion, criticism and suggestions took place.
We are now headed into the final stages of this exciting process. Programs are incorporating the comments and suggestions into their reports, and putting the final touches in to the operating frameworks. This is an exciting time at Seva Mandir and we are really looking forward to the next few years when we can put these strategies into effect and watch the change they make.
The integrated approach allows all our partners, friends, donors and well wishers to contribute to the holistic development of our communities. Any project/program that you support for Seva Mandir is a part of this comprehensive plan. Thank you so much for regularly supporting our cause and making a difference.
We will soon be providing you with an annual report of our programs you are supporting on Global Giving. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Greetings from Seva Mandir!!
I have two pieces of news to share before we talk about Heerki whose life has been transformed because of your support and SHGs.
One -we had participated in a fund raising event on Global Giving UK. The challenge Top 10 wins challenge (1st to 14th March) required us to raise at least of £ 500 with minimum of 25 donors. Seva Mandir participated with its project “Improving Food Security for Tribal Farmers in India”. This project helps 5000 poor, marginalized farmers in rural Udaipur to have better crops and thus earn more money/food. This is done through a variety of programs including – seed bank program, using organic manure prepared with the help of earth worms (vermin-composting), growing cash crops like vegetables (preparing nurseries) for self sustenance and income generation. You would be very happy to note that this project raised £705 from 31 donors in the Top 10 Wins Challenge and therefore it won a bonus prize of £300. It is a perfect gift on the Holi (the color festival) for our farmers this year.
Two, this year, in March our ex Chief Executive Ms. Neelima Khetan was retired. She has spent 25 years with Seva Mandir and the last twelve years as the Chief Executive. The organization excelled during her time and with her leadership marked a number of achievements. Though she has left us due to our constitutional norms, we are very happy to have her as our Trustee on Seva Mandir Board. Her continuing association with Seva Mandir is very assuring for all of us.
Ms. Priyanka Singh has taken over as Chief Executive of Seva Mandir from 1st April 2011. She has spent over thirteen years with Seva Mandir heading Education and Health program and leading Badgaon Block (a geographical unit for our work). She has a post graduate degree in rural development from the same institute as Ms. Khetan did. She is very capable and a great person to work with. With her deep understanding of issues in rural development and support from all our friends like you, we are very much looking forward to seeing Seva Mandir keep doing its good work in the next years to come. At this point of time, we all look for your continuous support and faith for many more years of working together.
Below my letter please find the story of Heerki. I very much hope you will enjoy learning about the impact small activity like saving and credit can do for women of our region. Thank you so much for supporting this program.
Please do consider to make another donation and also encourage your friends to support this project. We hope that you will be able to visit/write to encourage our new team and leadership.
Here is the story of Heerki – (Story written by Anjali – an ex volunteer to Seva Mandir)
Heerki has not been educated. She has two sons and three daughters. In her home, she lives with her husband, one of her sons, his wife, and his child. Her routine consists of doing all family work including cattle, household, and field work. Her husband does NREGA in another village and field work, and her son is a factory threadmill worker.
From the SHG she has taken around Rs. 10,000 (USD 223) in loans for household items, marriage, and education fees. They were taken through family decisions.
Her husband suggested they purchase a water lifting machine through the bank linkage loan. The machine is a bore that fits to an electric pump. The machine has now made a huge change in their field work. Before, they could not grow wheat and now they’ve grown fifteen quintels of wheat. Though they haven’t yet sold anything, they could have potentially made Rs. 4,500 (USD 100) in the past four months. Each quintel will bring in Rs. 1,500. Now, they’re also cultivating vegetables, which they couldn’t do previously.
No training was needed for the machine as it simply needs to be plugged in. Their costs include electricity and nearly a quintel of seeds which were purchased to begin. One quintel is approximately one kg of seeds, which costs Rs. 18. They needed to purchase the seeds initially, but can now save their own seeds and won’t need to purchase any next time.
The whole family works in the field for two to three hours a day. They haven’t sold anything yet, but will sell to other villagers. They are already satisfied.
The only problem for the family is that there is not always electricity for the motor to spread water in the field. In addition, Heerki expresses that it is very hard work, but feels content as it is a job.
Prior to this loan, they made about Rs. 3,000 (USD 67) a month. Now, they don’t have to purchase as much food because they have more of their own food. The money saved is going to their installments. The family plans to begin selling in one to two months.
Wishing you a very happy, prosperous and wonderful 2011. Thank you friends for extending peace, love and support to all of us in 2010. We look forward to another great year with you. Year by year, our association is getting stronger. Thank you very much for adding happiness to our lives.
A small drawing made by Durga Kumari is presented as a token of our wishes to you.
Have an awesome year ahead.
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