Hemlata 1

Meet Hemlata Kushwaha. Hemlata shares her story of working with FPCs and FPOs to increase financial resilience and access to part time work. Grameen Foundation partners with Farmer Produced Organizations (FPOs) and Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs) to increase access to microloans, less expensive agricultural products, and to create opportunities for women to enter their local economies. We also work with Self-Help Groups (SHGs) to encourage digitizing records and increasing savings. SHGs is a program initiated by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in India. Under this program, SHGs that have accumulated their own capital can borrow funds from banks.

Hemlata belongs to Garapur Village of Prayagraj District in Uttar Pradesh, India. She holds memberships in two prominent institutions in her area and serves as the secretary of an active self-help group (SHG).

Hemlata has been involved with SHGs in various capacities for the past 11 years. As a member, she has been engaged in different activities, including the regulation of funds among the SHG members, the creation of emergency funds, internal lending, keeping the SHG books and records, etc.

Participation in self-help groups provided her with the opportunity to obtain micro-credit facilities for a variety of purposes, which on one hand promoted her saving capacity and on the other honed her entrepreneurial and decision-making abilities.

She says, “In 2018, I took a loan of Rs 90000 from the SHG and started a chow mein factory. However, since the sales declined due to the pandemic, in 2020, I had to shut it down. Similarly, through such loans, the women in SHG have started their own ventures like cosmetic shops, grocery shops, etc.”

A common thread that connects most of the women in the village is that they are all looking for part-time work that will allow them to supplement their income. That is where Grameen partner, Prabha Samruddhi Farmer Producer Company (FPC), has aided the community by providing a dual benefit to its shareholders. It facilitates cheap and easy access to Agri input products and it has gradually begun working towards creating employment opportunities for women in the area.

Telling about her engagement with the FPC, Hemlata says, “I joined Prabha Samruddhi Farmer Producer Company in 2020. I am also a member of the SHG where the women of the group were mostly in the process of lending and saving money. Due to their socio-economic background, women in rural areas have always been in search of part time employment opportunities that they can do at their convenience amidst managing domestic and agricultural activities to generate some income from it. That’s where SHG women like me benefited after joining Prabha Samruddhi FPC.

On the front of employment activities, the FPO has initiated the employment of women in its operations by involving them in services such as packaging of Umang atta (UPPRO’s wheat flour brand name), creation of sweet boxes, and preparation of lunch boxes for meetings, etc.

Sharing an experience of one such opportunity, she says “Another female shareholder and I were asked by the FPO to create 1000 sweet boxes recently, the production cost for which was Rs 4 per box. We made the sweet boxes in a couple of days and sold them for Rs 6 per box to the local sweet shops. This fetched both of us an income of Rs 500 per person.

The FPO seldom creates such opportunities for engaging the women shareholders in their operations. Mukesh Singh, Chairperson of the FPC quotes “Today, we are engaged with 12 SHGs and have been able to provide employment opportunities to some of these women who have registered with us as shareholders. We’ve involved them in various value-added activities like the packaging of our locally produced wheat flour, packing of seeds, preparation of lunch packets, etc. Last time, for the seed packing activity, we were able to engage 24 women for seven days at the value addition center where we paid each of them Rs 200 per day.

With such employment opportunities, Hemlata has better respect for herself and the women in the community. She believes that being a member of the SHG has helped them to learn how to save and utilize the savings but connecting with the FPO has taught them how to earn. Highlighting her aspirations, Hemlata says that in case she gets regular employment through such opportunities, she has plans for small businesses like the manufacturing of disposable bowls and plates, etc.

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