Rural women support their families and villages

Sep 16, 2010

Colorful fishes makes money for rural women, India

ornamental fishes in cemented fish tanks
ornamental fishes in cemented fish tanks

Dear Friends,

Thank you very much for your continuing support to the rural women of our region. With this letter, I would like to share with you a story of the ornamental fishery that women in Kaya village are doing.

However, before the story, we want you to know something about our monsoon. You will be very happy to note that the monsoon has turned out very good in Rajasthan this year. It has rained almost every day this monsoon which is unusual to our region. Usually we receive 20 rainy days in the monsoon. One of the most popular lakes in Udaipur city – Fatehsagar has filled up fully with lots of rain water and is currently over flowing. In villages too some of the streams are flowing and everyone is very happy. Hopefully we will have a good harvest of crops this year. The maize is the major crop and is currently growing in all the fields.

The women in Kaya wanted to help their families by supplementing extra income. The self help group (SHG) thought of starting a small business and therefore they started rearing ornamental fishes. The ornamental fished are in high demand in Udaipur. About Rs. 8 lakh (USD 16,667) worth fishes are sold in Udaipur every year. The Department of Fisheries of Mohanlal Sukhadia University in Udaipur was willing to provide the necessary support under their “Mega Seed Project”, supported by Indian Council for Agriculture Research.

Of the 6 SHGs, thirteen women decided to take up the project in 2006. They participated in a ten day training organized by the Department of Fisheries to learn about fish rearing, construction and maintenance of fish tanks, netting, etc. On completion of the training each of them were given 200 fish seeds. A buy-back arrangement had been agreed upon with the department who in turn sell them to dealers in Udaipur. Young boys from the village, who are children of the SHG members, have also been trained on aquarium fabrication, management and handling of ornamental fishes, and they provide the necessary support to women in rearing and in selling fish directly in the open market.

In the beginning women would dig up a pit in the ground in their field and would rear the fishes but eventually they realized that a kaccha pit (un-cemented) in the ground was a big challenge to manage. It also had a negative impact on the desired results because the seepage was high and the plastic sheet in the bottom of these pits got torn by the stones below and the rats & crabs ate up the sheets. These un-cemented tanks also got silted very soon and some tanks even collapsed. At regular intervals, the tanks need to be refilled with water. As you know water is scarce in the drought prone areas. As a result, the poor middle-aged women had to invest a lot of resources to keep their fishes alive.

It is then, when women decided to put up the cemented tanks. With help of funds raised from donors like you and Charities Aid Foundation India (CAF) the cemented tanks were built. Women also contributed 20% of the total cost (USD 521 for one tank) towards the construction of the tanks. Today thirteen women are rearing red, brown, gappi, silver and black molly fishlings in their tanks. According to an estimate last year women are able to earn between Rs. 500-1200 (USD 10-25) per member. Earlier, women were selling their fishes for Rs. 4 to 8/- but recently when I visited their village the women told me that they are selling the fished for more prices – like the golden orange fish is sold for Rs. 15 each. They are increasing their market base day-by-day and are quite happy with the progress they have made so far. Currently they are in communication with the Fishery Department to explore whether a shade over their tanks is useful and would help them yield better results.

This has all been possible because of the support received from people like yourself. We will keep you posted on these women’s progress. Your donations are significant at this stage when their investments are shaping up.

It would be very encouraging if you could provide us with your comments on our feedback reports that we post on Global Giving in addition to your continuing support. It would help us improve in our communication with you. Thank you once again.

We will keep you posted on our progress.

With warm regards,


May 20, 2010

Nimi is contributing to family income now

Nimi at her shop
Nimi at her shop

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Seva Mandir!

Thank you for your continuing support to rural women gaining financial autonomy and being able to help their families. Ms. Anjali Fleury from USA has been volunteering with Seva Mandir and is working on our SHG program. She has been meeting women in the rural areas who are associated with SHG program. Here is a small story Anjali has written about a woman she met in Shisvi village.

We hope you will enjoy reading the story. Please do let us know if you have any questions.

Many thanks once again for your support, faith and empathy.

With warm regards,


------------------ (SHISHVI VILLAGE) Story of Nimi (changed name)’ – BY ANJALI FLEURY

Of the many projects run by Seva Mandir, the organization has made a significant impact by starting and assisting over 600 women’s self-help groups (SHGs). SHGs are women’s groups that use members’ savings to provide loans to one another based on need. As a volunteer, I’ve had the privilege to meet with many women in these groups to discuss their lives, struggles, and aspirations. In doing so, I met Nimi. Defined by the government as “below poverty level”, Nirmala’s family income was significantly low before meeting Seva Mandir. Through Sadhana, a Seva Mandir stitching project designed to help women gain income, Nimi began doing stitching orders and gaining a reliable salary. Nimi also joined an SHG starting in her village. With the SHG, she no longer needed to rely on money lenders with high interest rates, and was able to acquire several loans. With these loans, she started a general store and has continued to expand her shop inventory and business. Not only have these loans allowed Nimi to increase her business and income, but they have also helped her meet household needs. Today, Nimi is still doing patchwork with Sadhana, taking stitching and clothes orders from her local community, and running her general store. She’s also conducted a stitching class for local girls in her village, and has even hired her previous students to help with large orders. Overall, Nimi now makes around the same monthly income as her husband. To her, the SHG has changed her life. She feels she has become financially independent and can provide for her family. Previously, Nimi’s husband would discourage her from beginning her business by saying she could never repay her loans. Now, Nimi says they both make family financial decisions and her husband’s attitude has drastically changed. Indeed, her own attitude has changed, and she now feels successful and confident in her abilities. She proudly shares that she will never leave her SHG and hopes to remain a member for her entire life. Niimi’s poignant and inspiring story made clear that Seva Mandir’s continual guidance and assistance through community-based efforts has not only given new opportunities to these women, but has also resulted in women’s empowerment as they transform their own lives through their own groups. Witnessing firsthand the life-changing effects of SHGs has brought new meaning to my volunteer experience, and I feel privileged to have worked with an organization so dedicated to these communities.


Jan 4, 2010

Wishing you Happy New Year and Thank you for supporting women

Dear Friends,

New Year Greetings from Seva Mandir!

We hope the New Year brings joy, happiness, peace and success to everyone’s life. We also hope that together we will be able to reduce the sufferings of our planet.

Thank you very much for your overwhelming response during the recent challenge. We are indeed very grateful for your support and would like to communicate our heartfelt thanks to you.

With this letter, we are happy sharing the progress we are making in our women’s program. Our 48 women’s groups have a membership of 14,000 women. The women’s groups are serving platforms of mutual support and encouragement for women. With various trainings (including legal issues, reproductive health, Government Schemes), meetings and exposure visits we have been able to get rural women a platform of gaining confidence and social support.

Apart from our focus on promoting their social support structure, through Self Help Groups (SHGs) we are attempting to empower women economically. Recently, an external review of our SHG program helped Seva Mandir marked the strengths and weaknesses of SHG program. Currently we have 573 SHGs with a membership of 8415 women and with a total of $ 289,348.

The struggle for women in this region is sometimes beyond family and individual. The following story is a perfect example of how women’s groups and their Self Help Group Funds help them fight back all kinds of odds in their lives.

Two SHGs from village Dadmia and Baansadiya got fishing rights in Ogna dam from Panchayat (local village council) on 28 August 09. These groups were struggling for the fishing rights in this dam for the past 3 years. Initially they fought with the local contractor who was illegally fishing in this dam for long. The women together fought for their right and made him leave the dam in June 2008.

The women now applied to Panchayat for taking the dam on lease. As being the resident of the village they have the right on their dam. But on 1 June 2009 the Panchayat through a tender process gave it to another contractor. The women had also participated in the tender process but because they offered a small amount to the Panchayat they ended up losing the contract.

But, this was not enough to discourage the women. They wrote an application to the District Collector and requested him to cancel the tender to the other contractor. Since it was a D category dam and some women members of these two SHGs had lost their land because of the construction of this dam, so, the tender was cancelled and the Gram Panchayat (the bigger level village council) was asked to do the leasing process through Gram Sabha. Finally on 28 August, the group got the dam on lease for five years for Rs. 41,000 ($ 820). The group has deposited the amount in the Panchayat.

On 19 September 09, a meeting of these two groups was organized to explore possibilities of association with Rajas Sangh (Government Department) for financial and technical support. An official from Rajash Sangh participated in this meeting. After a lot of discussion Rajas Sangh agreed to provide support to the group for 10 years under their Integrated Fisheries Development Scheme. Thereafter department released 32,200 fish seed in this dam and have assured for 70,000 more seed. Looking at the initiative of groups in Baansadiya and Dadmiya, they also provided 50,000 fish seed for three other ponds in villages Umariya, Madri and Mohammed Phalasia.

The groups are now ready to fish in their dam and are very happy at their success which was the result of their continuous efforts and mutual support.

We would like to say a big ‘Thank you’ to you for supporting these rural women. Your support will go a long way. Supporting to our SHG program has brought you to a close relation to these women which we hope will stay firm for ever.

Thank you once again.


Dec 7, 2009

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

December 7, 2009

Dear Friend,

Greetings from Seva Mandir!

Many thanks to all of you for responding to our call of support during ‘Give More and Get More’ Challenge. We did quite well in the challenge and you would be happy to note that we stood third with receiving over $35,000 across various projects.

The funds are always helpful in continuing our work but that we can write to this community of supporters and rally support is very morale boosting. Thank you for your trust in us. We are truly grateful.

With best regards for the Holiday Season,



Nov 11, 2009

Matching grant opportunity – Please support Seva Mandir

It’s the season for Thanks and Giving…and we hope very much that you will continue your support to Seva Mandir.

We wanted to let you know about an exciting opportunity that we are participating in through our partners, Global Giving. A donation made to any of our projects, on Global Giving between November 10 and December 1, will be matched.

Total donations up to $2,500 will be matched at 30%. Donations in the range $2,501 - $7,500 will be matched at 40%. Donations above $7501 will be matched at 50%. However, please note that only donation amounts below $500 will be eligible for matching – any donation above $ 500 will come to us, and make us more eligible for bonus awards but without the matching amount. SO GIVE MORE – GET MORE!

And if we raise the most money or get the most donations, we are eligible for bonus awards. First place for both categories will each receive $5,000, second place in each will receive $3,000 and third place in both categories will each receive $1,000.

Seva Mandir’s page at Global Giving lists 7 projects. Please see

Matching funds are limited, so we request you to act as quickly as possible. You can give and also persuade friends and family to give. Minimum donation is $10 and donations are tax-deductible!

Would you consider giving and also sharing this email with others?

Thank you for anything that you are able to do to support Seva Mandir.

With Greetings for the season, Seva Mandir

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Seva Mandir

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Project Leader

Priyanka Singh

Executive Director
Udaipur, Rajasthan India

Where is this project located?

Map of Rural women support their families and villages