Self-help groups transforming women's life in rural Punjab

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Ludhiana, Oct.26 (ANI): The Punjab Agricultural University has established self-help groups for women in the State to help them become self-reliant.

For Amit Jethi of Ludhiana, making soft toys and paintings used to be a hobby. Since she became a member of a women's self-help group, it has become her profession. Every month she earns between Rs.10,000 to Rs. 12,500 (200 to 250 dollars) and has been able to contribute significantly to her family.

This transformation in her life has come about with the help of a self-help group.

"Those who have talent should use it. It also inspires others. Most of the girls and women in rural areas hesitate to go out. But, we must help them tap the hidden talent. We can achieve a lot in this modern age," said Amita Jethi, a member of the self-help group.

For making such a difference in ordinary women's life, the credit goes to Punjab Agricultural University's directorate of extension education in Ludhiana which provides training to farmers and farmwomen.

During their training, the participants are taught about a variety of skills like preservation of fruits and vegetables and preparation of various snacks, soft toys, education play material, fabric painting and much more. The training is provided by Extension specialists of College of Home Science.

"We have a qualified department of business management, which gives lectures about marketing. It teaches about how to go about marketing, the ways of production, how to increase the shelf life of the produce and even how to attract the consumers. Everything is taught here. In our several centers across Punjab the scheme is so successful that people have benefited a lot from it. They know that one plus one doesn't make two but it makes eleven," said Dr. Tejinder Singh, Coordinator Kisan Club, Punjab Agriculture University.

Among the many self-help groups existing in Punjab is Global self-help group which is located near Ludhiana. Over a dozen of its members, mostly the farmwomen, make pickles, sweets, spices and processed food to cater to the local market.

The profits they earn supplements their family income. A majority of the members also save some money for the future security of their families. Training by the University has helped the group in producing and marketing the produce.

"Anyone can produce anything but no one makes value addition. We add value to goods and sell it through direct marketing. For example cauliflower is available at a cheaper rate now so we buy it in bulk and preserve it for making pickles. Now, it's the season of Amla fruit (Indian gooseberry). So we buy it to make chutneys, murabba and jam," said Gurdev Kaur, President, Global self-help group.

The Punjab Agricultural University has been allowing some of these self-help groups to set up stalls at the Kisan Fair (farmers' fair) and other events inside the campus.

And, the rural women are making good income by selling products directly to customers. By Karan Kapoor (ANI)

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