Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana

Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana(RGMVP) is the initiative of Nehru-Gandhi family which is working for poverty reduction and women’s empowerment. RGMVP, therefore, fulfils a real and critical need for developmental intervention in UP. Its reach currently extends to 50 blocks spread across 12 backward districts of UP, reaching out to 2,18,771 families and transforming the lives of over two million poor. The districts where RGMVP is currently doing its work are Bahraich, Sravasti, Barabanki, Lucknow, Faizabad, Raebareli, Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Unnao, Fatehpur, Jhansi and Lalitpur. Other proposed districts where RGMVP plans to extend its activities are Jalaun, Hamirpur, Mahoba, Banda, Chitrakut, Maharajganj, Gorakhpur, Deoria and Kushinagar.

RGMVP’s vision of ‘Organising the poor to unleash their energy’ through women’s empowerment and poverty alleviation is put into action through the Mission’s Core Programmes. A participatory planning process has been institutionalised, through which programme activities are implemented with plans prepared from below, involving all project field functionaries, to achieve measurable indicators of progress.

The most significant of the Core Programmes is Institution and Capacity Building. Once the institutions of the poor begin operation, all other initiatives are routed through them to reach every woman and household. The SHGs serve as central points for women to discuss and address issues closest to their hearts: education, healthcare, awareness generation, income generation, even social risk management.

The entire process of programme execution is led by the community; RGMVP facilitates and simplifies each area so that best practices can be easily internalised by the community.


RGMVP’s implementation strategy is based on the belief that it is the poor themselves who must drive all initiatives of the project from planning, implementation to monitoring. All of the Mission’s strategic initiatives/interventions use proven and successful methodologies of community development:

· Internal animation through social mobilisation and community champions such as community resource persons, animators, etc,

· External facilitation in the form of RGMVP’s support in setting up institutions of the poor and bank linkages

· Community institutions in which the poor participate fully and which are owned by them, so that they can shed poverty and experience a better quality of life.

Key cornerstones of the project’s implementation strategy are:

· Poverty Reduction Strategy

· SHG Institutional Model

· CRP Strategy

· Total Financial Inclusion

· Livelihood Focus

· Saturation Approach

· Convergence

· Project Management, Experimentation and Learning

Poverty Reduction Strategy

This forms the most important component of RGMVP’s implementation strategy and based on the following simple seven step process:

1. Identifying the poor and understanding the dimensions of poverty
This includes an assessment of the specific dimensions of poverty in each location (such as income / expenditure classes, extent of hunger, etc)

2. Organising the poor into SHG institutions and their federations
Each SHG usually consists of 10-15 women, typically from Below the Poverty Line (BPL) backgrounds. Over a period of  three to six months, SHGs are federated into Cluster (village) Level Associations (CLAs) and, subsequently, CLAs are federated into Block Level Associations (BLAs)

3. Capacity building to bring out the innate abilities of the poor
Through the development process, SHG members improve their ability to manage, plan and implement different actions such as weekly meetings, weekly savings, evaluating income generating activities, understanding credit, etc.

4. Mobilising capital through micro savings and bank linkages
RGMVP facilitates the linkage of Indian public sector banks to poor families. By facilitating the poor to save regularly and by encouraging banks to rate SHGs on the basis of their financial discipline, RGMVP has put in place a structured process that banks can adopt to extend credit lines to SHGs.

5. Livelihood enhancement
RGMVP assists the poor in identifying and investing in livelihood activities by providing financial support, training of community barefoot practitioners and promoting linkages with various private and public sector agencies.

6. Identifying and taking up human and social development activities
Once their most basic survival and livelihood needs have been met, SHG members begin to address larger social issues (e.g., women’s health, gender issues, education, social vices such as alcoholism and bonded labour, etc.)

7. Social risk management through community managed safety net programmes
SHGs and their institutions themselves act as safety nets for the poor. Once the poor have been able to build an asset base that can provide them with continuing revenue streams, they are encouraged to safeguard their asset base through participation in RGMVP-facilitated, community managed safety net programmes and life/cattle/property insurance schemes.

This strategy is based in learnings from the successful poverty alleviation initiatives through the SHG institutional model in the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) South Asia Poverty Alleviation Programme (SAPAP) and the World Bank’s project Indira Kranti Pratham (Velugu) implemented by SERP, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.

Total Financial Inclusion

In a country where two-thirds of the population does not have access to formal financial services, SHGs are proving to be the most effective instruments for achieving total financial inclusion (TFI), contributing to inclusive growth, and generating social capital in order to address larger issues like poverty eradication and women empowerment. In his Union Budget speech 2008-09, former Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, reiterated the Government’s commitment to the policy of Total Financial Inclusion of the poor: “Banks will be encouraged to embrace the concept of Total Financial Inclusion. Government will request all scheduled commercial banks to follow the example set by some public sector banks and meet the entire credit requirements of SHG members, namely, (a) income generation activities, (b) social needs like housing, education, marriage etc and (c) debt swapping.”

RGMVP’s TFI strategy is based on the following points:

· Address all the needs of the poor through the formal system

· Transform money lender dependent rural poor into a highly bankable group

· Eliminate the high-cost interest regime from the lives of the poor

· Arrest the resource drain from the poor

· Build up diversified and multiple livelihoods of the poor

· Inculcate a strong savings culture among the poor

SHG-bank linkages and mainstreaming the poor
A critical first step in TFI is forming SHG-bank linkages and mainstreaming the poor with the banks. The poor are not mainstreamed because they lack assets and their credit-worthiness is in question. RGMVP provides facilitation support and an enabling environment that ensures that every SHG gains access to microfinance by being linked to nationalised banks which have a commitment towards development of the poor. The focus is on investing in building the institutions, building the capacities of the poor to access the entitlements and opportunities available with the formal institutions, in a manner that can be scaled up to meet the growing needs of the poor. As a result, there is focussed investment; investment is being made where it is required and in multiple doses, and the poor’s access to funds continues in perpetuity. The poor are also mainstreamed to take advantage of the many subsidised programmes that are being implemented by the government and international funding organisations.

The process of mainstreaming occurs in two phases. In the first phase, access to funds is provided through the Cash Credit Limit (CCL) in multiple doses after six months of the SHG being formed. In the second phase, the SHG has access to funds through the Micro Credit Plan (MCP), without any collateral security.

The bank-linkage process has been considerable streamlined by special operative instructions that each commercial and regional rural bank is obligated to follow with reference to RGMVP. A high-level Project Implementation and Monitoring Committee (PIMC) monitors the implementation of SHG-bank linkages under RGMVP. Its membership includes Chief General Manager, National Bank of Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD), controlling heads of all major participating banks in Uttar Pradesh such as Bank of Baroda, State Bank of India, Allahabad Bank, Eastern Baroda UP Grameen Bank and Bank of India, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), SERP, and CEO, RGMVP. The Committee meets on a quarterly basis, and its responsibility is to ensure project friendly policies, bankers’ commitment and problem-free execution of the project activities.

Self Help Institutions for Financial Inclusion
To drive its TFI agenda further, RGMVP has now formalised and introduced the concept of women’s banks or Self Help Institutions for Financial Inclusion (SHIFIs) in two pilot blocks recently. In areas that RGMVP has been working in for the last six or seven years, the programme has reached saturation – that is each and every needy, poor woman has been organised. SHIFIs are aimed at fulfilling these women’s aspiration to move forward further – to develop financial institutions that would give them absolutely hassle-free credit at their doorsteps and allow them to undertake activities that formal banking institutions do not allow. The corpus for these women’s banks would be created with contributions from SHGs, CLAs and BLAs. The bank would work in much the same way as a formal bank does, but with a special focus on its women members’ needs and requirements. The women themselves will manage the SHIFIs with facilitating support from the trustees.

The SHIFI’s corpus will be used by the institutions of the poor to reach out to the poorest of the poor, invest in livelihood activities and to improve the health/education status of the community.

Institution/ Capacity building

Underpinning this programme is the belief that the poor have an immense capacity and a strong desire which can be harnessed by organising them, so that their capacity is unleashed and they can lead themselves out of poverty. By organising the women into SHGs, the programme reaches out to each household.

External facilitation through social mobilisation forms the crux of the process of SHG formation, the most critical aspect of the programme. The task is carried out by RGMVP’s staff, development professionals drawn from non-governmental organizations(NGOs) across the country who are committed to helping the poor come out of poverty. The process starts with the identification of the poor and the dimensions of poverty in a particular village. Discussions are held in each household, during which the external facilitators pave the way for the poor to understand that they can overcome problems by organising themselves and working together.

Tools such as experience-sharing, skits, confidence-building, message dissemination through the medium of folk songs, processes such as Sangam Bata (or Samooh Rasta), and visual aids play a crucial role in the social mobilisation process. The role of the CRP is critical too, as she is powerful motivator and mobiliser of women through experience-sharing. In the process, internal animators — active women in the community who have grasped the concept of SHGs — are identified, and undergo intensive training on the best practices of SHGs. These community leaders take up the responsibility of guidance and hand-holding support to the SHGs through training and capacity building.

Once predefined milestones are achieved, 10 to 20 SHGs at the village level are federated into Cluster Level Associations (CLAs) or Gram Mahila Sangathans. The CLAs handle the nurturing process of the SHGs in the village, forming a platform for the poor at the village level. Fifteen to 20 CLAs are federated into Block Level Associations (BLAs).

Each SHG has three office bearers: President, Treasurer and Secretary. The CLAs and BLAs have five office bearers each: President, Deputy President, Treasurer, Deputy Treasurer and Secretary in addition to three committees each: Social Awareness, Audit and Bank Linkages. These federations take up the responsibility of building up the institutions of the poor. The CLAs and BLAs organise programmes during which members go to women/villages not yet covered by the project, share their experiences, organise the left-over poor and help them set up institutions.

In addition, to nurture SHGs and ensure that they follow best practices, RGMVP has recently introduced the concept of SHG Activist or Samooh Sakhi. The Samooh Sakhi is chosen from amongst active SHG women and looks after two to five SHGs in a village. It is her responsibility to ensure that the SHG members overcome internal problems, meet, lend, borrow and return the loan regularly, and adhere to the SHG best practices.

The programme thus creates a movement — of the people, of the community, led by the community. RGMVP acts as a facilitator but the actual leadership is driven by the community and the community institutions.

Microfinance Facilitation

RGMVP believes that the poor have the innate ability to come out of poverty; they must be provided an opportunity and an enabling environment. They require sensitive support – not subsidy but multiple doses of credit as and when needed. Facilitating access to microfinance through SHG-bank linkages is then the most critical aspect of the Microfinance Facilitation programme. This process has been streamlined and refined under the programme to ensure that all organised women have been linked to banks/microfinance with the SHG as the medium.

The SHG-bank linkage process has been simplified and follows a well-defined path within a certain timeframe:

Step 1: After six months, when the SHG has matured, has demonstrated that it has internalised the best practices of SHGs, and its internal dynamics are streamlined, it receives a revolving fund of Rs 25,000 from the bank as Cash Credit Limit (CCL) or 10 times the SHG’s corpus, whichever is higher. This loan amount of Rs 25,000 is accessed by the members of the SHG as and when required, and repaid. This facility remains with the SHG in perpetuity.

Step 2: After another six months, when the SHG has demonstrated that it does use the loan and repay it, that its members are investing in small income-generating activities, it is entitled to a larger linkage, based to a process called Micro Credit Planning (MCP). The seven-step MCP process is a participatory method through which the SHG members prepare a plan based on their likely expenditures, savings, sources of livelihood, ways to enhance income, where investments are required, loans and repayment. The main objective of the MCP is to

Step 3: After the successful completion of the MCP and its evaluation, the SHG is eligible for the second phase linkage: a larger loan – up to Rs 5,00,000 – without any collateral security. This phase is based on Total Financial Inclusion (TFI) where the poor will look only at the formal financial institutions – as opposed to informal arrangement such as a money lender — for all their needs, economic and social. The programme, thus, enables each SGH that has internalised the best practices to build up its members’ capacity get access to funds for their every requirement, be it for income generation, education, health, emergencies, etc.

The focus of bank linkages is on adequate and hassle-free credit, which is provided to the SHG members at their doorsteps. RGMVP has been able to garner support from all the banks in its project area such as Bank of Baroda, State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Allahabad Bank, Baroda UP Gramin Bank (RRB) and Aryavart Gramin Bank. Every linked bank has mobile micro-credit units which go the villages, rate and appraise the SHGs for the credit linkage, participate in MCP process, and give suggestions. The banks have ownership of the microfinance programme and are committed to facilitating RGMVP’s Microfinance Facilitation programme, by providing loans to SHGs at a confessional interest rate of 9 percent.

The Village Level and Block Level SHG Federations too function as the Banks’ Business Facilitators to facilitate community-owned SHG- Bank linkages.

To further ease the poor’s access to microfinance, RGMVP has recently launched Self Help Institutions for Financial Inclusion (SHIFIs) or women’s banks in two Blocks. The corpus for these institutions will be created through contributions from SHGs and thye will be managed by the women themselves to focus on the needs and requirements of SHG women.

Livelihood Action Plan

RGMVP’s SHG institutional model aims to provide poor women the tools to build financial and social security through decision making and livelihood activities such as agriculture, dairy, poultry, handicraft and other rural non-farm sector activities. Once the SHGs are linked to microfinance, their members can utilise loans to supplement existing livelihoods or invest in new income-generation activities. The Livelihood Enhancement Action Plan facilitates and supports livelihoods through a comprehensive and holistic approach. The focus is to ensure that rather than eke out an existence fro agriculture and allied activities, the poor are able to earn from these activities.

RGMVP works in a project area where the primary livelihoods of the poor and the poorest of the poor come from the agricultural and allied sectors. Approximately 82 to 85 percent of the poor are small or marginal farmers, and of these 55 percent own land less than half a hectare. The yields are low due to saline and sodic soil, low rainfall and lack or irrigation facilities; and the poor just about manage to eke out an existence from subsistence farming.

RGMVP Livelihood Enhancement Action Plan focuses on three actions to mitigate the current situation in which the poor find themselves.

Improving the poor’s access to timely credit, fertilisers, seeds, knowledge and other inputs through SHG initiatives. The poor’s need for timely credit – to take land on lease, to purchase seeds, pesticides, fertilisers, implements — is fulfilled through loans from the SHGs. Women often take loans for agriculture at the beginning of the planting season, return the capital and the interest on harvesting, and then again borrow for the next crop. Knowledge on best practices of agriculture is provided by RGMVP specialists in training sessions. To take this practice further, the institutions of the poor are facilitating the setting up of Kisan Vidhyalayas or Farmer Schools. The Farmer School is based on the same principle as the SHG. Here male farmers form groups with the primary aim of pooling together local knowledge and enhancing it by inviting experts, consulting agricultural institutes, and building up a resource bank that would benefit the entire community in bettering crop and soil productivity as well experimenting with new crops, seeds and sustainable farming practices.

Introducing and motivating the poor to use sustainable agricultural practices so that the fertility of the soil and the productivity of the crop are enhanced: Thousands of women across the project area have been trained in making organic and vermi compost. Not only have these women found that they are able to save money spent on chemical fertilisers, use locally available resources to prepare compost but that their land’s soil is rejuvenated and they get better crop yields. Other sustainable agricultural practices such as the Dabholkar method of green manuring and the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) as well as the use of organic pesticides such as Panchagavya and Amritjalam have been introduced to the SHG women for better yields from their lands.

Facilitating the poor to take up supplementary income generation or explore opportunities in the non-farm sector: This aspect of the Livelihood Enhancement Action Plan is focused on facilitating supplementary livelihoods such as dairy, goatry, bee-keeping, poultry, vegetable growing. Convergence with other synergetic organisations has contributed substantially to enhancing the utility of this programme for the poor. For instance, in dairy, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) provides the marketing infrastructure for the milk as well as medicines, animal feed and fodder seeds; BAIF Development and Research Foundation provides expertise on areas such as artificial insemination to increase the milk yield of the cattle and improve breeds; and RGMVP provides extension services by creating an enabling environment for the poor. In fact, RGMVP is facilitating backward and forward linkages with NDDB to make dairy one of the important verticals of development for the poor. NDDB’s 95 bulk milk coolers spread across the project area buy milk from thousands of SHG families, thus providing them with a viable means of alternative livelihood.

RGMVP also encourages poor women and girls to explore opportunities in the non-farm sector by providing training in such income-generating activities such as stitching and embroidery, food preservation, cane furniture making, mechanised knitting, leather work, pottery making, detergent making, etc.

Agriculture and dairy best practitioners have also been chosen from among the SHG women. These activists are keen to share their knowledge and experience with the other women. Over 100 women have received training in sustainable best practices of agriculture and dairy best practices and share this knowledge with SHGs across the project area.

In addition, a Training Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Dairy has been set up to promote awareness among and provide training to SHG women and farmers to improve yield of crops and breeds of cattle as a part of the RGMVP’s collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, USA, under the Khorana Programme. The primary objective of Programme is to ‘To raise the yields of milk and vegetable production’ to improve farmers’ income. Demonstration and continuous training are held at the Training Centre to enhance knowledge and skills of SHG women and farmers. Experts from the University of Wisconsin, along with Indian experts, provide advice to farmers and SHG women.

Community based health care

RGMVP works in an area of Uttar Pradesh that has some of the lowest Human Development Indices in the country. There is lack of health education, prevalence of chronic diseases like tuberculosis, diarrhoea, etc, and reproductive health problems such as high-risk pregnancies, RTI/STD, non-institutional deliveries, anaemia, maternal and infant mortality, and malnutrition. Women have limited or no access to basic healthcare facilities and are often compelled to depend on unscientific treatment. The Community-based Health Care programme is aimed at reducing the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) by:

· Enhancing awareness on ante-natal care, infant care and nutrition;

· Generating public consciousness of health services as a fundamental right;

· Creating public accountability; and

· Creating a better understanding of health and healthcare.

The Community Health Activist (CHA/Swasthya Sakhi) plays a critical role in fulfilling these goals. The Swasthya Sakhi is a volunteer from the community who is trained to provide basic knowledge on reproductive health and sanitation (personal and public hygiene) with special emphasis on prevention. She is responsible for generating demand for health services in the community and linking the community with the existing public health services. She also provides a measure of immediate relief for health problems, organises the community on healthcare issues, especially pregnancy and ante-natal care, and sensitises SHGs/CLAs/BLAs and builds capabilities. SHGs members are encouraged to internalise the seven best practices for healthcare based on basic hygienic and healthy behaviour so that they can lead a secure and responsible life. Members of CLAs/SHGs and Swasthya Sakhis discuss the concept of sanitation and sensitise the community on good sanitation and hygiene practices.

The CLAs also organise sanitation drives in villages, and motivate villagers to participate in collective activities such as cleaning of drains, removal of garbage, etc.

RGMVP’s convergence strategy has been especially effective in consolidating the impact of the Community-based Health Care programme. At the CLA level, the Swathya Sakhi promotes convergence by acting as a link between public health workers such as the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), the Anganwadi Worker (AWW) and the Acerbated Social Health Activist (ASHA). These public health workers are able to use the CLA/SHG meetings as a platform to disseminate information on issues such as immunisation and to communicate with women on healthcare issues. The CLA/SHG meetings are thus a one-windowconvergence platform for various interventions such as the IntegratedChildDevelopment Scheme (ICDS) of the government, or for village functionaries such as the Gram Pradhan to promote schemes such assanitation amongst the community.

Convergence also works at another level: collaborations with the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital and the Indira Gandhi Eye Hospital and Research Centre in Munshiganj ensure that the poor can avail of medical facilities at these establishments. A tie-up with the Rajiv Gandhi Sachal Seva, a mobile healthcare programme with 22 vehicles, has resulted in regular health camps being organised for the community in the project area. It includes 12 districts of central-east UP and Raebareli and Sultanpur are among them. The Mission has also formed a partnership with Vatsalya, a Lucknow-based resource training centre for maternal and child health.

RGMVP plans to strengthen its Community-based Health Care programme through several other measures. The RGCT runs 16 primary healthcare centres under the Rajiv Gandhi Arogya Yojna (RAY) which are managed by Asia Heart Foundation in the project area. This responsibility is planned be transferred to the community, under which the community will contribute small amounts and engage a doctor who look after of the entire community. A community-based health insurance scheme is also planned to be initiated.

Community based quality education

Education is a cause for concern in the RGMVP’s project area. State-wide, according to the 2001 census, the literacy rate is 57.36 percent while the female literacy rate is 42.2 percent. These figures are far lower for rural areas in which the Mission works. The Community-based Quality Education programme works to change the community’s perceptions and attitudes towards education, especially girls’ education, and primary education for all through networking, community motivation and advocacy. The aims of the programme are to sustain literacy skills; foster quality in education; encourage education of girls, Dalits and minorities; and promote low cost good quality children’s education (especially English).

SHG meetings work as nodal points to initiate advocacy and motivation on the issue of education. Awareness creation leads to women themselves discussing the importance of education, and actively pursuing re-enrolment of drop-outs and visiting teachers at schools to resolve any issues. CLA and BLA members and RGMVP staff support enrolment and follow-up of education in the area.

Community volunteers in the village are given training in using joyful learning techniques and other methodologies to improve basic learning levels. This initiative has been undertaken for the benefit of children who go to government-run schools but have limited reading and writing skills.

Enhanced income generation through the SHG model has also resulted in more families being able to afford education for their children. Many SHG women borrow funds from the SHG to invest in better education – privately run English medium schools – for their children.

Also driving Community-based Quality Education are several initiatives by the Village Level Associations. Increasingly disenchanted with the quality of education being provided by government-run schools, these associations are taking matters into their own hands and supplementing the children’s education with their own efforts. CLAs in Bahadurpur block initiated tuition classes where community children are taught by volunteer teachers. At present, seven CLAs are running tuition classes where 225 children are taught Maths, English and Hindi outside school hours.

Recently, English learning has been initiated by the community itself to ensure that children acquire English speaking skills, especially if they are to take advantage of a wider range of opportunities for a better future. This programme has been undertaken in association with RGCT’s Rajiv Gandhi Saksharta Pariyojana through a partnership with the Education and Technology Services wing of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS). English learning is conducted using IL&FS’ kit. A SHG member is provided three days’ training in using the kit to enhance English speaking skills of children in the age group of five to 15 years. The English relay Programme is community driven. Village level associations have taken on the responsibility of running the English Relay Programme: they provide the room and other facilities for it. The programme is conducted in a friendly and interactive environment where children learn through games, exercises, role plays; hear recorded lessons for listening practice and exposure to correctly spoken English; listen to and read specially written stories with illustrations to reinforce their learning; and further reinforce their learning through games and class activities. The English Relay Programme is shortly to be introduced in 30 villages of Raebareli and Sultanpur districts where approximately 1,200 children will benefit from it.

RGMVP plans to expand this programme through closer collaboration and convergence with Rajiv Gandhi Saksharta Pariyojana.

Social Risk Management

An important aspect of RGMVP’s poverty reduction goals is to address social risks and build safety nets for the poor. Under the Social Risk Management programme, the community has been sensitised to the need for insurance especially when the poor acquire assets such as cattle and livestock. Advocacy and motivation at the SGH level has led to the poor realising that having a social risk management programme is an easier option and that it is possible to minimise the risks they currently face.

At the basic level, the SHGs themselves serve to minimise social risk: close to 2,00,000 SHG members have savings worth Rs 50 million which considerable enhances security. At the next level, the Total Financial Inclusion strategy works to mitigate social risks by ensuring that high-cost interests and dependence on money lenders are completely eliminated for the poor’s lives and that their every need is addressed through the formal system. There is no restriction on the end use of the loan taken by an SHG member: it could be for healthcare, for a wedding in the family, a pilgrimage, a religious ceremony. The aim is to decrease the burden on the poor and reduce social risk by ensuring that they use onlyformal institutions for their needs rather than money lenders or other sources. In many cases, the SHGs themselves have set up emergency funds which are used when a contingency arises. CLAs have also initiated grain banks from which poor members can ‘borrow’ rice and wheat for their needs so that no one goes hungry in the village.

RGMVP has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) under which all SHG members between the ages of 18 and 59 years will be provided life insurance under the Janshree Bima Yojana, a special micro insurance scheme driven by the Government of India. As an additional benefit, a maximum of two children of the insured member will be provided a scholarship worth Rs 100 per month, if they are students of classes 9 to 12.

Also on the anvil is the initiation of a community-based health insurance scheme — Micro Insurance Academy (MIA) recently conducted a two-day workshops in the project area. In collaboration with MIA, RGMVP plans to put a community-based micro health insurance scheme in place that will take into account the existing health supply, ongoing initiatives, and available subsidies so as to ensure that SHG members’ welfare is maximised. The scheme is soon to be introduced in three blocks in the project area.

Once certain milestones have been reached, the programme plans to start collective procurement for household needs, based on the wheat or rice credit line concept. Through this, the SHG can use the loan amount to procure food in bulk and members who cannot afford to pay can do so in instalments. Thus food security can be addressed through collective action.

Gender and Social Action

Women’s empowerment, the most important goal of RGMVP, is a sensitive issue in a project area which has a deeply patriarchal and feudal social milieu. While the Mission has been successful in enabling women to assert their right to control the resources of the household and to participate in decision-making for their families, gender and social issue continue to pose challenges for the complete empowerment of women. Traditions such as the purdah system, discrimination on the basis of caste and class, lack of respect of the identity of the woman, and total disregard for the rights of the girl child and the woman are rampant, and have served to undermine the position of the woman in society for centuries. Issues such as women’s control over their own fertility, their reproductive rights, gender-based violence, the management of the male-female ratio (the sex ratio is lower than the national average of 770 women:1,000 men in this area), ante-natal care, nutrition and sanitation need to be urgently addressed. The Gender and Social Action programme works to sensitise women on these issues. Training of Trainers (TOT) sessions have been organised on gender issues for the Mission staff and community leaders. They have been sensitised to various issues from a gender perspective. They in turn use advocacy and motivation building to create awareness about these issues to bring about changes in perspectives and attitudes in each household.

Gender Committees have been formed by CLAs and BLAs to take this agenda forward. Each Gender Committee consists of SHG women who have been trained to understand the gender issue and its dimensions; they in turn discuss this issue at the CLA/BLA meets to create awareness and to resolve problems related to gender within the community.

SHG women are encouraged, through simple exercises, to understand the concept of gender, to appreciate the difference between productive and non-productive work, to calculate the sex ratio in their villages/communities, and to understand that the gender of the new-born child is not in a woman’s control. CLAs across the project area are conducting PRA exercises to collect data on infant and female mortality, the sex ratio, and pregnant women to understand the problems and then to act accordingly in collaboration with their Sawasthya Sakhis and local health functionaries.

SHGs are also sensitised on the need to provide adolescent girls with information on health issues. Convergence with the Community-led Healthcare programme and with public health functionaries is used to reiterate and reinforce the importance of natal, antenatal care, maternal and infant care.

The institutions of the poor – the SHGs, CLA and BLAs –act as important fora to bring about a social revolution at the grassroots level. The sense of unity of purpose and strength generated by these institutions has compelled members to take stock of centuries old traditions. Discrimination on the basis of being a woman, or of belonging to a certain caste, class or community, has lost its hold on SHG women. The ability to earn and to generate funds has given the women the confidence to participate effectively in community life, and therefore to establish an identity for themselves as well as to earn the respect of the community. Most SHG women have dispensed with practice of the purdah. Women from different castes, class and communities work with each other in the institutions of the poor and reject discrimination on the basis of these parameters. In many cases, SHG women have also learnt to stand up for their rights against the power of the local landlords and higher classes. Other social evils such as addiction and violence against women are also being resolved through collective action of the institutions of the poor.

Overall, SHGs and their federations — through increasing women’s mobility in terms of coming out of their homes, interacting with other women, officials and outsiders – have created a huge wave of awareness and inculcated knowledge on community development, and gender and social issues among the women.

Training Initiatives

RGMVP’s primary goals are to build social capital in the project area by enhancing the capacities of the poor, and to provide an enabling environment that creates the momentum for the project to become self-sustaining and community-led. Training, therefore, assumes great importance as the foremost means for the poor and the people who support the poor (community volunteers and workers) to acquire knowledge, skills, and competencies that relate to their roles and responsibilities in achieving the goals of the Mission.

RGMVP’s training methodology has been devised to maximise impact through participatory, interactive methods, enriched with exercises (working in groups, discussions, skits), workshops, experience-sharing, message dissemination through the medium of folk music and visual aids.  Some training programmes are held in collaboration with partners such SERP which also trains RGMVP personnel in Andhra Pradesh, and in cooperation with institutes such as the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), to gain further insights into certain specific technical aspects of community development. Training is imparted at several levels and to different target groups:

· To build capacities of SHGs
The target group for this training is the SHG women, and messages are simplified for maximum clarity and internalisation. The modules include training on understanding poverty, management of the group, book-keeping, bank-linkages and financial management, MCP, the concept of the SHG and its federations, and the choice of right livelihoods.

· To build capacities of people who work with the poor
The target group is community leaders, CRPs and volunteers as well as
Mission staff. Training is imparted on Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) methodology, CRP’s roles and responsibilities, MCP, SHG management, bank-linkages and financial management, sustainable agricultural practices, best practices in livelihoods such as dairy and vegetable growing, social issues such as health and education, risk management and on gender issues.

· To build capacities of trainers
The target group is community leaders and trainers and
Mission staff. Training of Trainers (TOT) is focussed on building the competencies of trainers on innovative participatory and mobilisation methods, on sensitive issues such as gender, caste and class, apart from the entire gamut of processes and strategies that are part of the Mission’s work.

· To build skills of the poor
The target group is poor women who would like to learn skills that will turn into income-generation activities. Skill-based training is imparted on candle-making, embroidery, knitting, cane furniture making, pottery, leather work and food preservation.


· 4 Mobile Training Centres are managed by the CLA themselves.

· Over 29,603 women/girls have been trained by the Mission and other supporting organisation in different income-generating activities and skills in whole project area.

· Workshops has been organised for 330 women/girls by the government’s Handicrafts Department.

· Skill upgradation programmes has been organised for 340 women/girls by the government’s Handicrafts Department.

· 45 women trained in leather work by Central Leather research Institute (CLRI) in Chennai and the National Institute of Design in footwear and bag manufacturing.

· 152 women trained in fruits and vegetables preservation by NABARD.

· 1,686 women trained in dairy activities, of which 1,151 trained by NABARD in 35 batches, 420 by Nova Dairy and 115 by Baroda Swarojgar Vikas Sansthan, Amethi.

· 12 girls/women trained in fancy bag making and 19 in dress designing by Baroda Swarojgar Vikas Sansthan, Raebareli.’

Training Centres

RGMVP runs five permanent training centres located at Jais, Jagatpur, Lalganj, Deeh- Raebareli and Munshiganj-Sultanpur. These centres impart skill-based training to poor women at nominal or no cost, so that they can find new livelihoods or enhance existing ones through these income-generation activities. Workshops and skill upgradation programmes are also held to update skills and knowledge. Training is demand-based and RGMVP collaborates with other organisations such as NABARD, the Handicrafts Department of the Government of UP, Barod Swarojgar Vikas Sansthan to ensure that all skills requested by the women are covered in its training schedule.

RGMVP provides training in candle and incense stick making, shampoo and detergent powder making, leather work, garment manufacture, pottery, knitting and food processing to make women self reliant. Some training sessions such as embroidery (including the famous Lucknavi chikan-kari) and cane furniture-making are six-month courses while others are shorter term courses.

Through these training sessions, the women can either become trainers with RGMVP, who will go out to the SHGs to train other women, or be absorbed into the training centres in production of goods for the market, or set up their own independent units. The produce from the centres – made on order from the markets in Lucknow and Delhi – are sold through RGMVP’s marketing network called Myra Mart. Currently, there are five Myra Marts running in Raebareli and Sultanpur districts, some of which are run by RGMVP and others by SHG members. NABARD too assists the Mission in running these shops.

To ensure that the poor earn a livelihood rather than eke out an existence from their primary occupation – agriculture and allied activities – RGMVP provides training in sustainable agricultural practices such as vermi and organic compost making, the Dabholkar method of green manuring, SRI method of crop intensification for rice and in making organic pesticides such as Panchagavya and Amritjalam. These training programmes are aimed at helping the poor to maximise productivity of their land’s soil and crops, and are targeted at agriculture best practitioners or agriculture activists, who further pass on this knowledge and expertise to SHGs and their federations.

In addition, a Training Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Dairy has been set up to promote awareness among and provide training to SHG women and farmers to improve yields of crops and milk, and breeds of cattle as a part of the RGMVP’s collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, USA, under the Khorana Programme. Demonstration and continuous training are held at the Training Centre to enhance knowledge and skills of CRPs and Block Resource Persons in dairy and agriculture best practices.

Mobile Training Centres

The aim of the Mobile Training Centres, currently 26 in number, is to provide training on income generation activities to rural women/girls residing in remote villages at their doorsteps. Distance and lack of transportation is a deterrent for these women/girls to travel to the permanent training centres. Access to training is provided through these mobile centres which hold sessions at times most convenient for the women. The Mission bears all expenses related to training.

Community managed training has also been introduced with village level CLAs being given the responsibility for training. A pilot of this model was run at Ram Nagar and Thulrai villages of Gaura Block, during which the CLA collected Rs 100 each from the trainees for a six-month stitching and embroidery training programme. This amount paid the honorarium of the trainers while all other expenses were borne by the Mission. The success of this model has led to community based training centres being set up at other locations such Lalganj, Sareni and Chatoh blocks of Raebareli district.

Special Training Programmes/Learning Workshops

Banker Sensitisation Programme on Financial Inclusion
A special sensitisation programme was organised on the Micro Credit Plan and Total Financial Inclusion for Branch Managers from different banks on November 17, 2008. Thirty-four Branch Managers from different blocks of the Mission area were made aware of the process of MCP. They were also taken on field trips so that they could observe the process of MCP being undertaken at the SHG level.

Training on Community Mobilisation Skills
A TOT session aimed at building the capacities of volunteers and Mission staff to present the concept and aspects of the SHGs through different media such as skits, songs and stories was organised on September 8-9, 2008. Targeted active SHG members and mission staff, the training programme saw the participation of over 40 SHG members.

Workshop on Community-based Health Insurance
This workshop was organised specially for BLA members and was aimed at orienting them towards managing their own health insurance. A total of 35 members participated in this workshop, held on August 19 and 20, 2008.

Workshop on Gender Issues
Organised at the Jais Training Centre in collaboration with SERP, this workshop focussed on gender issues in the context of Up and was held on August 12, 2008. Over 40 participants included BLA members and project staff. The workshop was aimed, through simple exercises, at an understanding of the concept of gender, an appreciation of the difference between productive and non-productive work, how to calculate the sex ratio in villages/communities, and an understanding that the gender of the new-born child is not in a woman’s control.

The training was aimed at translating into the following actions:

· Survey for the family size in the village and pregnant women;

· Identification of the families having more number of girls;

· Special thrust and focus on girl’s education;

· Give information to the adolescent girls on health issues;

· Conducting the sex ratio exercise in CLAs;

· Providing tuition to the children at the CLA level;

· Conducting discussions on the health related issues in CLAs; and

· Maintaining these records at the CLA level.

Vision Workshop
A Vision-building Workshop was organised to set the Vision and Mission of RGMVP on
July 14 to 16, 2008. Apart from 60 participants from eight BLAs, the Workshop also hosted guests such as Mr Sohaib Sultan Khan from Pakistan; Ms B.Vijaya Bharathi from Andhra Pradesh; Mr J.P.Barnard, NIRD; Mr Sukhbeer Singh, CGM, NABARD, Regional Office, Lucknow; Mr Dinesh Sharma, Chairman, Grameen Bank; and representatives from other partners like NDDB. The session concluded with remarks from Mr Rahul Gandhi and Mr Khan.

Workshop on Livelihood Opportunities Available in Central and Eastern Uttar Pradesh
The workshop was organised on
June 30, 2008 at Jais with Mr G. Murlidharan, Livelihood Expert from the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), as the resource person. The purpose of the workshop was to identify opportunities for expansion of existing livelihoods of rural poor and also to identify the possibilities for new livelihood activities in rural areas.

Training of Trainers on Participatory Learning and Action (PLA)/ Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)Techniques
This training was organised from March 31 to April 9, 2008, in collaboration with NIRD, Hyderabad, to equip the Mission staff with the essential participatory training and learning skills. A total of 111 Mission functionaries were trained in two batches including Community Volunteers, Field Officers, Assistant Project Managers, and Project Executives. PRA/PLA is the term used for a growing family of participatory approaches and methods that emphasise local knowledge and enable local people to make their own appraisal, analysis, and plans. PRA /PLA uses group animation and exercises to facilitate information sharing, analysis, and action among stakeholders.

The PLA/ PRA training was aimed at translating into the following actions

· To conduct Participatory Identification of the Poor (PIP) to identify the poor and poorest in the project villages through a participatory process;

· To collect baseline information (Social Development Information & Human Development Information) about project villages; and

· To utilise PLA as the entry point activity for mobilising the poor and poorest and organising them into the SHGs.

Training in Dairy Best Practices
Mr Bob Kaiser and Mr Ken Bolton, experts from the
University of Wisconsin, and Dr Hegde, a veterinarian, trained Dairy CRPs from 15 Blocks (six Blocks from Raebareli and nine from Sultanpur) from June 1 to June 9, 2009. The three-day training schedule during which three batches of CRPs were trained focussed on the seven best practices of dairy.

Training in Sustainable Agricultural Practices
Three sets of training programmes were conducted by Mr Krishan Rao, an independent sustainable agriculture expert, spread over April and May 2009. In the first training programme, Mr Rao provided training to the agriculture CRPs from seven blocks (two from Raebareli and five from Sultanpur) in organic compost making, SRI, and green manuring. He also held refresher training for CRPs from 12 blocks. The second training programme also in organic compost making, SRI, and green manuring was aimed at CRPs in 12 blocks. In the third training programme Mr Rao trained CRPs in paddy seed bed preparation at a village in Amawan Block.

On-going Training Programmes

RGMVP’ annual training plan is aimed at building capacities and institutions for the poor in its Mission area. Regular training programmes are held around the year targeted at specific groups and needs.

Group-level Members Training
This training programme is organised for SHG members by Animators and CRPs within a month of a SHG being formed. It is aimed at creating an understanding of the concept of SHGs, their management and norms, Seven Best Practices of SHGs, book-keeping, etc, so that members are able to run the SHG without problems. So far (December 2008), 11,548 SHGs have been trained.

Book-keeping Training
This training programme is aimed at enabling members of SHGs to maintain books of account such as the cash book, the ledger, the trail balance and the proceedings register according to norms. The Community Volunteer and Field Officer identify women from each SHG and train them to understand the process of book-keeping. As of December 2008, 5,350 SHGs being trained and maintain their books of accounts themselves.

Cluster-level Association Training
This three-day training programme is specially organised for all SHGs who are the members of a CLA at the Gram Panchayat level. The objective is to create awareness of the concept and importance of the CLA. On the first day, all the members of the SHGs are trained, on the second day only the Representative General Body (two members from each SHG) participate and on the third day, only the Executive Committee attends the training on the management and functioning of the CLA. As of December 2008, 362 CLAs have undergone this training.

Block-level Association Training
The Mission organises training programmes for the BLAs on different issues such as gender, insurance, sustainability of the BLA, the function of the BLA. These sessions are held by guest experts such as Ms Vijaya Bharathi (a World Bank consultant and advisor to RGMVP), or State Gender Coordinator, SERP. As of December 2008, four training programmes have been organised and a total of 10 BLAs have undergone training.

Training for Internal CRPs and Project Staff on the Seven-step Poverty Reduction Strategy
Learning from successful poverty alleviation initiatives through the SHG institutional model such as UNDP’s SAPAP and Indira Kranti Patham, the Mission has evolved a poverty reduction strategy with a seven step process. To understand the strategy, RGMVP invited Ms Vijaya Bharathi to provide classroom as well as field training to Internal CRPs and Mission staff. By December 2008, three batches of 108 Internal CRPs and three batches of 30 Mission staff have been trained.

Exposure Visits for BLAs
Exposure visits to the SHGs in Andhra Pradesh are organised on a continuous basis for BLAs. As of December 2008, a total of three batches, six BLAs and 126 members have been exposed to the best practices followed by SHGs in Andhra Pradesh; 378 members from nine BLAs are scheduled to visit Andhra Pradesh in the near future.

Exposure Visits for CLAs
Active CLA members regularly sent on exposure visits to learn the best practices of CLAs. So far (December 2008) 100 CLA members have undergone exposure visits in two batches.

Exposure Visits for Bank Controlling Heads and Branch Managers
The Mission has been organising exposure visits for the Controlling Heads and Branch Managers from different banking institutions in the Mission area. As of December 2008, two batches of Branch Managers and one batch of Controlling Head have been exposed.

Exposure Visits for Project Staff and Active SHGs
Regular exposure visits are organised for Mission staff and for SHGs which have internalised the best practises of SHGs.

Block-level Awareness and Training Programme
Training sessions are organised at the Block level for SHG leaders and members on seven best practices of SHGs, SHG bank linkages, MCP based on Total Financial Inclusion (TFI) and on Income Generation Activities (IGA). Bank officials, NDDB representatives, Block representatives such as District Development Managers and Lead District Managers are invited to these sessions so that SHGs can share their problems and find solutions. Over 25 such training sessions have been held till December 2008.

Micro Credit Plan under Total Financial Inclusion (MCP/TFI)
These training sessions are organised at the Block and District levels to train the community — active SHG members, CRPs, Animators — in the seven step MCP process. Participants undergo classroom as well as field training. An eligible group which is ready for the second phase linkage is guided by the Mission staff to prepare an MCP for the group. After completing the training they called MCP CRPs. Till December 2008, the Mission had trained 120 CRPs in four batches.

Livelihoods Training for SHG Members
RGMVP’s convergence collaboration with NDDB to provide backward linkages to SHG members’ livelihoods initiatives has resulted in the NDDB setting up 85 bulk milk coolers in the Mission area. To date, 20 training programmes on dairy as a livelihood activity have been conducted covering 600 SHG members. The objective of the training is to create awareness among the SHGs about the best practices of dairy.

Training on Charts
For ease of internalisation and understanding by the SHG women, pictorial charts have been introduced in the Mission area with the help of Ms Vijaya Bharathi, Forty-seven CRPs have been trained on charts till December 2008.

Training on Community-based Health Care for Swasthya Sakhis
To enhance awareness on health issues in the Mission area, RGMVP uses community volunteers called Swasthya Sakhis. One active SHG woman who is willing to volunteer as a health activist is selected for every CLA. These Swasthya Sakhis then train SHG women in basic hygiene and health care. By December 2008, 60 Swasthya Sakhis have been identified, trained and positioned at the CLA level. This initiative has been implemented in collaboration with Atrimed Foundation and Vatsalya.

Workshops on Kitchen Gardens, Vermi Compost-making and Square-foot Gardening
Regular workshops are held at the Jais Training Centre for women on how to prepare kitchen gardens and vermi compost. Women are made aware of the benefits of vermi compost, the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by some species of earthworm, which is contains water-soluble nutrients, microbes, and bacteria, and is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. They are taught how to make vermi compost and supplied the earthworm species (or composting worms Eisenia foetida). Woemn are alos given demonstrations on square-foot gardening, in which a square foot of land, protected by bricks on all sides and a polythene sheet underneath, is divided into smaller square sections, each of which can be used to plant different vegetables.