As a community, the ‘Rag pickers’ in India, are placed at the bottom of the social and economic hierarchy and suffer from abysmal forms of oppression and exclusion"

Ushering Change for a Better Tomorrow: A Case Study of ‘Rag pickers’ SHG of Rajasthan

Among them, women in particular, suffer from the most severe forms of deprivation and marginalisation, arising, first, from them belonging to an excluded community and second, from belonging to the under-privileged gender!

Under these  circumstances, Hand in Hand India, under the under the Government of India’s   flagship programme of  the ‘National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM)’  should be credited for forming the first ever self- help group comprising ‘only women rag pickers,’ in a secluded part of Pali block in the same district of Rajasthan, India.

The National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) – Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY) programme of Government of India, works for empowering the poor, urban communities by providing skill training and credit facilities for building sustainable livelihoods.  Recognizing HiH India’s good work in Pali district in  empowering  poor,  rural and semi urban women through a structured process of  social mobilization,  sustained training and capacity building  including skill training and providing access to credit for livelihoods promotion, the  Government of Rajasthan, approached HiH India to partner with it  to eradicate poverty among the urban poor.   A MoU was signed between HiH India and The NULM- DAY scheme of Government of Rajasthan in October 2016, mandating HiH India to mobilise 1200 women in 100 SHGs within a 2 year period and work for their social and economic empowerment.

Under this Project, much to the pride of the Govt. and all stakeholders, HiH India formed the first ever SHG, “Reshma” of only rag pickers on January 3, 2017.   ‘Reshma’ SHG has 10 members, all of who have been involved in rag picking for generations, and, due to their membership in this low occupation and consequently low caste, have been suffering from multiple layers of exclusion and subjugation. All the women in this group are illiterate, never having been to a school and denied their basic rights and entitlements in terms of access to education, health care, credit and livelihood opportunities. This is reflected in the fact that none of the 26 Microfinance institutions working in Pali targeted them for providing access to credit.

Despite this, however, they are determined to carve a better future for themselves and their children and send their children to school including their daughters and eke them to perform well at school.

HiH India is working with these women in an integrated approach of providing training and capacity building, skill development, access to credit  and bank linkages to help them build alternate  and better sources of livelihood.  Inspired by HiH India’s training, the members practice regular thrift, savings and internal rotation of their savings for their emergent household needs.

For a group of women, who had till now never visited a  bank, it is a matter of great  pride that they regularly visit the bank to deposit their  group ‘savings,’ and conduct other financial transactions in the bank. It took a lot of effort and relentless foll ow up from HiH India team at Pali to convince the bankers to open an account for the rag pickers as they were most reluctant to do so!

To expedite their process of livelihoods promotion among them, HiH India has provided 8 out of the 10 members with credit support of Rs 20,000/- each to invest in income generating activities. While each of the 8 members has a different entrepreneurial dream to pursue from the credit received, the common vision is to engage in some productive activity, in addition to rag picking, which will give them a better life.  2 of the 8 members want to set up a small shop in their lane, while another wants to invest in bangle making and still others are keen to pursue agricultural activities.

The next step for HiH India is to motivate these women to enrol themselves in functional literacy classes which will help them pursue their entrepreneurial ventures. Going forward, HiH India is also keen to work on their health and sanitation needs for their integrated wellbeing.