By Ashutosh Mishra
Bhubaneswar: Thanks to Mission Shakti women self-help group (SHG) movement in Odisha has been scaling newer heights. From running mid-day meal kitchens to manufacturing traditional handicrafts they have given women from the poor background a dignified means of livelihood and, more importantly, a purpose in life.
The election of Pramila Bisoi, the elderly SHG leader from Ganjam, to the Lok Sabha, was symbolic of how the movement has empowered women. She was handpicked by chief minister, Naveen Patnaik to contest from Aska, the constituency Patnaik had represented in the parliament in the past.
Patnaik, who had committed himself to allotting one-third of party tickets to the members of the fair sex made an emphatic statement by making her the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidate from Aska. It was not only a step towards the fulfilment of his commitment but also a recognition of the excellent work that women SHGs were doing in the state.
Women SHGs had been functioning in the state even before Mission Shakti was launched but the programme imparted a fillip to the movement which has since transformed the lives of lakhs of women. These SHGs which were once engaged in making handicrafts and items of domestic use have now diversified their work. In the past, they have earned accolades for successfully running mid-day meal kitchens in different parts of the state and were also involved in water harvesting activities.
Now they are once again going to play a crucial role in the implementation of the MDM scheme which is a reflection of the government’s trust in them. Recently there was also a proposal to involve them in the collection of water bills from consumers in cities like Bhubaneswar.
For chief minister, Naveen Patnaik supporting these women SHGs was an investment that has also paid handsome political dividends. Women have been voting for his party consistently in the elections as they remain thankful to him for providing them with s dignified means of livelihood through Mission Shakti.
Some time ago a section of women were upset with him for coming up with an excise policy that encouraged the consumption of liquor. There were also movements by women against liquor which gathered support from anti-liquor lobbies. However, despite occasional irritants like this women have been voting overwhelmingly in favour of his party because they remain beholden to him for making them self reliant.
The SHG movement is also a recognition of the fact that women contribute significantly to the economy of the country and that with right kind of support they can make a still better contribution and help take the country forward. Such initiatives are all the more important in a state like Odisha which has for long been associated with poverty and backwardness.
Thanks to the SHG movement things have changed drastically in districts like Kalahandi and Bolangir which were once part of state’s hunger zone and made the news frequently for incidents of hunger deaths and child sale. Now poor women in almost all areas of these districts are leading a dignified life by engaging in economically productive activities.
This is a movement that ought to be encouraged and provided with all kinds of support by the state government. After all, it is something that concerns the dignity of women.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)