Never did I imagine that self help groups have reached so far in their journey | Milaap

Never did I imagine that self help groups have reached so far in their journey

What the outside world has an idea of women self-help groups is the very similar to what I had before I met this group of self-help groups called Triveni Mahasangh (union). What people think that a self-help group could do at most is make some small stuff and sell them in the market to make a living or may be run some small shops to augment their family incomes. What if I tell you that there is a group that besides all these things have also been involved in solving one of the toughest problems, not only of India but of the third world, which is housing. Not many would expect an all women self-help group to work like a real estate company, building houses in slum areas and then selling them to poor people at price as low as 20,000 rupees. And this is what I saw and experienced as I interacted with Triveni Mahasangh. [caption id="attachment_6541" align="alignnone" width="694"]A constituent self help group of Triveni Mahasangh. A constituent self help group of Triveni Mahasangh.[/caption]Triveni Mahasangh is a group of 12 self-help groups in Mahavir Basti of Baramunda in Bhubaneshwar. There are around 60 women members in this group. Members are working in different jobs such as tailoring, weaving, running small tiffin stalls and shops and in making products such as bathroom cleaners, incense sticks etc. These jobs group members have been doing at the individual levels. They created a mahasangh under the leadership of Nayana Sethi, a field worker of Mahashakti Foundation (Milaap field partner in Orissa). The members of the Mahasangh contribute Rs 100 per month each and the collected amount is deposited in the bank. Nayana says’ A few years back there was a swamp over here. One day a child got caught in the slough of mud while playing and died. We as a group decided fill the swamp so as to avoid any such incidents in future. All the women members of the group brought soil and broken bricks from the adjoining area and filled the swamp’.[caption id="attachment_6534" align="alignnone" width="705"]Nayana sethi (in Blue Sari) with her group members Nayana sethi (in Blue Sari) with her group members[/caption]Now there is no muddy puddle. Some houses have been built over the swamp. Nayana further says ‘the houses were built by us. The funds that the group has been collecting have been used to build those four houses. We hired a contractor and he got the houses built for us. We sold these four houses to people who were in need for Rs 20,000 each house. And the houses were definitely sold for a decent profit by the Mahasangh'[caption id="attachment_6532" align="alignnone" width="714"]A typical house with bathroom and toilet attached to it that has been built by the Mahasangh A typical house with bathroom and toilet attached to it that has been built by the Mahasangh[/caption]It has not cost much to build them but the houses have a big room with bathroom and toilet attached to it. For just Rs 20,000, it’s a huge winning deal for the buyers who otherwise would have found it difficult to build an accommodation which is as safe and comfortable as it is. Besides this the group has also built a central village meeting house which hosts gatherings of the group and other social programs organized by the group. For me it has been a very positive and learning experience to meet and talk to these people. There is also a lot for the governments to learn from such initiatives of self help groups, which has failed to provide decent housing for its people despite allocating thousands of crores for such projects and very often have cost overruns.[caption id="attachment_6533" align="alignnone" width="741"]IMGP1625 The meeting house, built by the mahasangh[/caption]