A society can never progress without empowering the women and economic independence of women is one of the most important conditions for that. The Chhattisgarh government has launched a scheme by the name Bihan for women under the National Rural Livelihood Mission.The objective of Bihan is to impart training to women on various trades and make them self-reliant.
The philosophy behind Bihan is that the women involved are not beneficiaries but partners. The women from under privileged sections are organised in the form of Self Help Groups and these groups are imparted training on various trades according to their interests. After training they are given a grant of 15000 rupees to start the business. This money is given so that they do not have to take loans from money lenders. The women have to follow ‘pancha sutra’ (5 principles) and ‘gyarah sutra’ (11 principles). These principles are based on the fundamentals of efficient management of their trades and finances. The groups must hold regular meetings.After six months, the SHGs are given 60,000 rupees as the second grant.
Throughout the state women are associated with Bihan in large numbers and are very enthusiastic about it.These women are also inspiring others to get associated with Bihan and embarkon a path of progress and growth.
Bihan has been successful in alleviating poverty in many parts of the state. Women who have been associated with Bihan are more confident and self-reliant now. Maya, a woman associated with a weaving SHG in Umreli says, “I am independent now. I can take care of the future of my children. I am earning more and the money can ensure better education for them.”
Bihan has immense contribution to the women feeling much more in control of their lives. “We were very poor earlier.Now our conditions are better. I was a simple housewife but now I am earning and organising other women. I don’t have to ask my husband for money when I need to spend it. I buy things that I want and I fulfil the wishes of my children too. But the best thing is that now I am also contributing to the family and I am not dependent. It feels really great for women like us. We can take decisions on our own now.” Says Lata, a mother of two associated with an SHG that deals with poultry farming in Sutarra.
The sense of control that women like Lata have attained is a significant contribution of Bihan apart from the financial aspects. Even illiterate or semi-literate women have learnt to manage their businesses, maintain accounts and hold regular meetings. Most of these women are hopeful of a great future for their families and their children and are proud that they are contributing significantly to that dream.
The word Bihan means the dawn and the Bihan scheme is indeed a new dawn for these women of Chhattisgarh. The confidence that these women show has also attracted other women to Bihan. They are inspired by the fact that simple rural women who are more or less similar with them have been running their own businesses and making money. They too want to gain that control and it has prompted many women to start new SHGs.