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MISSION SHAKTI

An empowered woman empowers the nation.

“Woman is the builder of nation’s destiny. Though delicate and soft as the lily, she has a heart, far stronger and bolder than of man. She is the supreme inspiration of man’s onward march”.

- Rabindranath Tagore


Image Credits- Watershed Organization Trust


Kamala of Tara SHG, Baripada, proudly says," After receiving Rs. 10000 from the Municipality under the aegis of Mission Shakti, we started the business of women's apparel, and now each of the members can get Rs.5000 to 6000 monthly. "This is the story of just one woman Self Help Group today. There are lakhs of women SHGs out there that are actively transforming women's lives and society as a whole.


Introduction

Women represent Shakti, the supreme force and power responsible for the universe's sustenance. This feminine energy resides in every woman, who, as mothers, bear the responsibility of carrying, giving birth, and rearing posterity. Breaking the gender barriers and defying the entrenched stereotypes against them in society, women have assumed diverse roles, reclaiming their right to public space. Nevertheless, it is sad to see the real grimness of our society. Even today, women are marginalized, kept away from the decision-making process, confined to the house's four walls, and dependent on the male members of the family, be it father, brother, or husband with whom her identity is tied. It has been the main aim of the policymakers, political leaders, and academicians to restore the lost stature of women. Today, women are coming forward, demanding equal opportunities and justice at home and in the workplace, thereby breaking the glass barriers in almost every field, be it space science, technology, sports, or the armed forces.


Ever since independence, the politicians, administrators, policymakers, academicians, and other people concerned with developmental activities have focused on how to increase self-reliance, participation, empowerment, conscientization, mobilization and organization, along with other facets of democracy, especially of the poor and disadvantaged people.


To help women, who constitute 48.50% of the total population, realize their self-worth, especially from economically weaker sections, they are encouraged to organize themselves into Self Help Groups (SHGs). By doing this they come together to not only pool their resources but also their dreams, aspirations, and determination to rewrite and transform their destinies. The development of any country is constituted by many small developments and SHGs are ubiquitous blocks of many such developmental programmes.


Self-help groups refer to groups of poor and disadvantaged individuals coming together with clear objectives to change their living conditions and thereby empower themselves socially, economically, and politically.


The birth of the concept of SHGs in India can be traced to the success of the Gramin Bank in Bangladesh, pioneered by Nobel laureate Mohammed Yunnas. Some of the quintessential features of SHGs are that they are a homogeneous group of 10 to 20 people, usually women from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds. Self-help and mutual help, founded on group solidarity and cooperation, form its basis. The vital aim of such groups is to empower women and make them financially independent. So, in this direction, introducing the micro-credit system was a revolutionary step.


MISSION SHAKTI

In the field of Self Help Group, Mission Shakti is one of the most extraordinary ventures in India and the world. As the word Shakti connotes, it epitomizes the feminine energy. With the sole goal of empowering women and realizing the true essence or power of Nari Shakti, Mr Naveen Pattnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha, launched Mission Shakti on 8th March 2001 to help women break the shackles of the patriarchal society and make an identity for themselves by organizing themselves into different SHGs that take up various socio-economic activities. Today, Mission Shaktimaan has turned into a mass movement providing momentum for women's emancipation and empowerment and profoundly impacting the lives of not only women but also the communities and societies they are a part of. It has instilled decision-making capacity among women. Each decision is taken after discussion and deliberation among all the members, highlighting the democratic functioning of the SHGs. A standard register keeping a record of the workings and the attendance of members during the group meetings, conducted weekly or monthly, is maintained. Since women have also started providing for their families and mitigating economic difficulties, there has been a visible reduction in domestic violence. On a political front, the SHGs allowed women to engage in the local self-bodies with greater vigour. Today, this programme boasts a glorious track record of 6 lakh SHGs and over 70 lakh women members. During the previous financial year, 2021-2022, 59404 SHGs under the Mission Shakti Programme had a cumulative turnover of 2372.04 crore.


Mr. Naveen Pattnaik remarked, “Women empowerment is not a slogan, but a non-negotiable code for us”. With the mission to ameliorate women’s condition, Mission Shakti “helps to construct a society which is self-reliant, conscious of socio-economic issues, where there is a spirit of cooperation, where women are appropriately skilled to undertake their choice of activities without hindrances or dependence, where there is leadership development while maintaining gender equity & above all each having a respect for the values of others and each striving for the good of the greater society.” Taking a big step, the government launched Mission Shakti as a separate department in 2021.


Bank Linkage And Interest Subvention Programme

To help the women groups or communities develop into microfinance units, the government of Odisha, under Mission Shakti, launched the BLIS - Bank Linkage and Interest Subvention Programme in 2013 to make affordable credit available to women SHGs in Odisha. It used to give loans to the SHGs at 2% per annum up to 3 lakhs, which was reduced to 1% p.a in 2015. Again, in 2019, to encourage investments and reduce interest burden this scheme was revised to make the interest 0% p.a. up to three lakhs provided the loans are repaid in time. The interest subvention scheme under the program is available to Scheduled Commercial Banks (Public Sector Banks, Private Sector Banks, and Regional Rural Banks), as well as Cooperative Banks that use Core Banking Solutions(CBS).


MAJOR WORK UNDERTAKEN BY MISSION SHAKTI

The members of Mission Shakti SHGs have a marked presence in a wide range of fields. From manufacturing LED bulbs and marketing it at low cost, making traditional woollen fabric applique, handloom sarees, puffed rice, ladoos with groundnut and jaggery, chattua, pickles from mango, garlic, lemon, ginger and tribal jewellery and paintings to participating in health centre activities as well as the construction of roads and buildings, women have been able to create an identity for themselves.


Furthermore, Mission Shakti works in collaboration with many other departments. With the Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Department, the SHGs under Mission Shakti are involved in the paddy procurement. With the help of P-PAS digital technology, iris scanners, laptops, etc., they help in digital procurement through the online registration of farmers. In convergence with the Energy Department, the women SHGs are employed under GRIDCO Limited of the Energy Department across the state, where they have outperformed the male-dominated private sector in electric meters and charge readings. These Women SHGs have also assumed an instrumental and leading role in poultry and pisciculture. Odisha University of Agriculture & Technology (OUAT) provides skill-based training for 3000 SHG members (250 members/KVK by twelve KVKs) to develop their competency to undertake agri-based income-generating activities in agri-based enterprises such as oyster mushroom production, vermicompost production, nursery raising of vegetables, beekeeping, et al. Under the Sishu Poshak Karyakram of the Malati Devi Prak Vidyalaya Paridhan Yojana 2019–20, the purchase and distribution of uniforms to preschoolers in Anganwadi Centers through women SHGs has been initiated. 20-24 lakh preschoolers in the state are given two pairs of uniforms under this program.


In order to inculcate entrepreneurship qualities in women, Mission Shakti provides skill-based training to them. In collaboration with ORMS ( Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society), it helps rural women producers find a market for their produce and establish market linkage. Particular emphasis is put on establishing and promoting new Women Producer Groups(PGs), marketing and technology initiatives, institutional capacity building, value addition through SHG and PG capacity building, and strengthening of currently operating business incubation centres. The government hired 33 Young professionals for a period of 3 years and a technical support agency to help the women in branding, marketing, and aggregating the products. Bringing together 7 million women together, Mission Shakti Bazaar has been set up. The women sell their sustainable and eco-friendly products and authentic arts and crafts, along with multiple product lines such as corporate gifts, stationery, home accessories, and fashion, all reflecting Odisha's rich culture and heritage. This provides a platform for talented women artisans producing high-quality, handmade contemporary products, such as dhokra crafts, terracotta, Pattachitra, and others, thereby saving the age-old rich traditional skills that are the pride of Odisha from dying. Many women SHGs have open cafes and bakeries all across the state. Also in an attempt to promote millet production and consumption, the SHGs specifically have Millet Café, which included millet food stalls at the International Millet Food Convention held in Odisha.


Like any other institution, Mission Shakti focuses on the capacity building of the women SHGs to make their functioning more effective and efficient. According to reports published by the Government of Odisha, "Revolving Fund amounting to Rs. In two phases, 50 lakh per BLF has been released to all 338 BLFs for financing SHGs for income enhancement and livelihood activities. So far, 23001 SHGs have availed small loans amounting to Rs.128 cr out of the Revolving Funds placed with Block Level Federations (BLFs)." "Skill-based training of Mission Shakti Women Self Help Group Members as Sewing Machine Operators" has also been launched. Approximately 10000 SHGs members are given sewing training, thus making them ready for self-entrepreneurship in the apparel industry. 3648 Mission Shakti Gruhas have been constructed with a budget of Rs. 4 -5 lakh per gruha, where the functions and meetings of the SHGs can be carried out efficiently.


Keeping with the advancements of TechEd, Mission Shakti encourages its members to be digitally empowered by selling and marketing their products on a digital platform along with spreading awareness. In order to be transparent and effectively monitor and evaluate the performance of the SHGs, digitalization of the credentials and information of the members. To avoid duplication, the Aadhar number of the members is collected and updated on the Member Information System as a unique identity. In addition to acknowledging the fact that "Mobility is Empowerment," Mission Shakti also provides scooters and bicycles to the members. In December 2021, with the efforts of the Government of Odisha, Mission Shakti signed an agreement with the UN Capital Development Funds giving impetus to the economic empowerment of women and the fight for gender equality. As a joint initiative, the Mission Shakti Living Lab project was launched which helps women to attain financial stability and autonomy and helps them get better access to “inexpensive market opportunities, funding for business development and market solutions to improve linkages.”


The government is now focusing on identifying the SME groups among the SHGs and giving a URL number to them. Further, the groups are also given certificates to make them eligible to avail all the benefits of SMEs under the state government (like subsidies and government tender). Mrs.Sujata R. Kartikeyan, Secretary cum Commissioner, in an interview, said that at present, around 1-2 lakh SHG groups are doing business with a turnover of more than one crore.


CHALLENGES

Despite the efforts of the government, it’s unfortunate that the Mission Shakti programme has loopholes too. As per the Mission Shakti Annual Report, only 59,404 WSGHs of 6 lakh WSHGs, i.e. only a mere 10% of the total WSHGs are financially empowered or engaged in income-generating activities. According to the published standing report by the Odisha Legislative Assembly, many SHGs have failed to utilize the loan money for the specified purpose and instead used it for personal purposes like children's marriage. Sometimes, due to internal conflicts, there is a fallout among the members, eventually leading to the failure of the undertaken project or initiative. There are also occasions where the SHG members distribute the loan money to other people, and eventually, the loans are not paid back. For instance, the Laxminarayan SHG, which distributed the loan money of 1 lakh among themselves, further lent out the money to other people at interest, but debtors disappeared putting the SHG members in a position where they are not able to return even the principal amount of the granted loan to the bank. This results in failure to repay the loans and, at times, leads to the accumulation of bad loans forcing the cooperative banks not to lend any further.

Nevertheless, these issues can be solved with proper government interventions. Owing to the fact that Mission Shakti brings about changes in the social fabric of society at the grassroots level, it is important to educate women, provide them with proper training, and create awareness among them about the various policies and benefits.

Image Credits- World Fish Centre


CONCLUSION

“Empowering women is a prerequisite for creating a good nation, when women are empowered, society with stability is assured.”-APJ ABDUL KALAM


Empowerment of women is essential as their value systems lead to the development of a good family, good society, and ultimately good nation". India, right now, is at the cusp of rapid development, and female participation in this process remains crucial and a decisive factor. The prevalent tradition of bestowing domestic responsibility on women, stigmatizing their economic advancement, and deep-rooted patriarchy depriving them of equal opportunities at par with men still haunts Indian society. Mission Shakti and other such programmes aim to channel that power, the Shakti, that creates, nurtures, and transforms, to propel India on the path of not only women's development but also women's development. Women Self Help Groups have truly revolutionized the fate of women in India. Marking the 77th Independence Day celebrations, PM Narendra Modi, while giving his speech from Red Fort, acknowledged and lauded the role of women SHGs in the country's rapid economic development.


What started as a “Silent Revolution” in 2001, has become a roaring movement today. Almost 2 decades ago, Mission Shakti started with the vision to “make Odisha a land of equal opportunities irrespective of gender where women are empowered to live with dignity and enjoy economic prosperity”, by bringing the women out of the precincts of their household and their is no doubt that it has been quite successful. Today Mission Shakti has empowered women not only socially but also economically and politically by helping them create an identity of their own that is not dependent on their father or husband.

 

By - Kabyaa Nayak

The author is a second-year Political Science student at Hindu College. She has a special interest in Indian politics and International affairs.

 

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