Durg (Chhattisgarh), Oct.21 : A woman in Durg has transformed the lives of hundreds of women around her with personal intelligence and a strong determination to serve and uplift the society through women empowerment.
Shamshad Begum felt inspired for such a mission after being associated for five years with the government's literacy campaign, started in 1990. She worked as the President of one of the small groups operating in Gundardehi Village.
But later, Begum decided to devote herself for uplift of women in society for the rest of her life.
In 1995, when literacy campaign was started in Gunderdehi Block here, the number of illiterates was 18,265 of which 12269 were women. Courtesy Begum that within six months all the women turned literates and at least 25 of the passed out students pursued studies till standard five.
Shamshad Begum, however, urged the women not to separate having once united as a team through the literacy campaign. She wanted them to realize the strength of their unity. Hence, she constituted them into small groups and in a way kept them together.
She promoted a sense of savings among the womenfolk among these groups. The initiative bore excellent results when with a meager savings of Rs.2, the women bought candles and Kerosene oil to continue their literacy campaign and also motivate others.
These women later took up various social causes and worked for disclosure of local liquor shops and encroachments. With the help of local MLA and District Collector, a separate building "Mahila Bhavan" for women groups was also built.
Some of the groups ensured several developmental works were properly carried out in their area.
Shamshad Begum ensured setting up of 1,041 self-help groups in Durg district, which was five times higher than the proposed number of 200 groups by district authorities.
Believe it or not, today about 10 million rupees of these self-help groups is deposited in separate banks. Several of these self-help groups today lend money to other needy groups on minimum interest rates.
Women can today borrow money in their challenging times like child delivery, medical treatment of children, and field-work. Earlier, they were compelled to deposit their jewellery to local lenders for borrowing money.
These self-help groups have created such a faith and credibility with the banks that getting loans hundreds of thousands of rupees today is not a problem for them.
"According to the bank managers, the recovery rate from the members of these groups is an impressive 98 per cent. The women return their loan before due time. The members of these groups are today involved in farming, soap making, Kiraya Bhandar, and manufacturing of wheels for bullock carts," said Shamshad Begum, the social activist. To ensure the members could derive benefits of government schemes, Begum has also set up a group of 100 women to learn and propagate about beneficial schemes. She lovingly addresses them her 'Commandos'.
Not just that, Begum has been active under the banner of "Sehyogi Jankalyan Samiti" (Public welfare cooperation group) and contributing in the field of education, health, economic and social development. She has also married off various needy youngsters. She has also been active in preventing child marriages. She has plans to train her 'Commandos' to have self-defense training in martial arts.
She has even imparted training to 200 groups about leadership skills and sex discrimination under National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
Shamshad Begum today deserves appreciation for not only motivating the rural household ladies to come out of their homes but also for instilling self-confidence in them to become independent. By Sandeep Dwivedi