SDGs have this clarion call - 'no one left behind' and so far what I have seen is that it has been limited to NGOs or organisations or local government structures which are expected to leave no one behind.
Meeting with Self-help group (SHG) members from four villages in Ribhoi district of Meghalya gave me powerful insights. On 2nd Dec'21 afternoon, we sat in the community hall with Faith Foundation team in village Umsawriang, where 10 women came to meet us. They are farmers by profession but are also members of Self-help groups. Village Umkiteh has 24 SHGs, Village Syllei-U-Lar has 8 SHGs and Village Umsawriang has 8 SHGs and Village Nongrah has 25 SHGs.
Four things that struck me:
1) Umkiteh has 224 households and 24 SHGs have ensured that a woman from each household is member of an SHG. SHG is a source of financial security, knowledge, and connections and so through the above effort no household is missing from the SHGs.
2)The solidarity amongst the SHG groups is remarkable. Instead of competing, the SHGs have taken the approach to cooperate and effort is made to support any SHG which is lagging behind. "As women, we uplift each other".
3) The grit, determination and care in these women for development of their communities is an example for other communities. They have taken the responsibility to identify children in the community who need support and link them to the block development officer. They encourage youth in the village to mentor children and hold sessions and sport activities with them on Sundays.
4) Harnessing the social capital of SHGs can contribute to change in the communities.
Takeaway-Change occurs at the community level. Institutions cannot bring about progress on their own. The above example underlines the crucial role communities themselves can play in identifying and reaching out to left behind population groups differentiated by gender, ethnicity, location etc.
Therefore, it is important that the communities realize this and act on it for a larger change. The women farmers and members of these SHGs show us the way!
First photo courtesy: Ornella, Faith Foundation