Self-sufficiency discovered from within | Anita’s Story

Anita is a member of one of the 50 Self-Help Groups | SHGs in rural Bihar that has just completed CorStone’s SHG Resilience Project.

She is 42 years old and lives with her two daughters, two grandchildren, and one daughter in law. Her husband and four sons live and work in Kolkata. At the age of 13, her parents discontinued her education when they arranged her marriage. She had her first child at the age of 16. Since then, she has been raising her family and working on and off as a laborer, harvesting grain.

Facing challenges with one another

CorStone’s SHG Resilience Project is conducted with women in microfinance SHGs in rural India to improve their resilience, mental and emotional wellbeing, and self-sufficiency. Women meet once/week for a total of 18 one-hour sessions that cover topics such as character strengths, goal setting and planning, emotional intelligence, assertive communication, and problem solving. Sessions are facilitated by trained women from the community.

SHG Resilience Project | CorStone
A typical home in Kolkata, Bihar | India

Anita joined her SHG about five years ago, where she began depositing 50 rupees (approximately $1) each month along with the other group members. However, after some time, the group lost momentum and members stopped meeting and stopped conducting any regular savings and loan activities.

Forgotten women find strength from within

A few months ago, CorStone, along with local partner Integrated Development Foundation | IDF, approached Anita’s SHG to participate in the SHG Resilience Project. She and the other members of her SHG began meeting regularly again and attended the program’s sessions.

Anita felt that SHG Resilience Project was something very different. She had never thought about or heard of these topics before, let alone been invited to discuss them. After receiving the sessions, she felt that her attitude about herself had totally changed.

I have everything inside me. But sometimes you don’t know what you actually possess.
Anita | SHG Program Participant

Self-sufficiency revealed through awareness

Anita knew how to sew, but had only sewn clothes for her family previously. She had never thought of using this skill to make money, but after attending the sessions and learning about her strengths, skills, and how to set goals, she suddenly realized that it was possible to gain a livelihood through her sewing.

As Anita put it, “Earlier, I used to stitch my own clothes…[but] I had the thinking that ladies should not do jobs and any work to gain an income should be done by husbands. But after going to the group…my mind got changed and then I thought of doing this work with all my heart.

“My mind changed and then I thought of doing this work with all my heart.” #SelfHelpGroup #Resilience Click To Tweet

She began approaching tailors in her village, asking if they had any extra work. She is now completing work for a number of different tailors. One of her sons saw her doing this work and asked her if he could learn as well. Anita began to teach him and also asked a tailor to help him learn as well. This son has since traveled to Kolkata and has gotten a job at a coat stitching company.

The right attitude opens opportunity

She describes her current attitude about work and overcoming barriers that may come in her way: “I will try to move forward by taking small steps. I had made up my mind that I have to reach higher, and that’s what I do.

Anita tells her family and all her friends about what she learned during the sessions. She even feels that some of what she learned about communication and problem solving has helped her to improve her relationship with her daughter-in-law, which had previously been difficult and fraught with “fights and quarrels”.

She now sees a number of strengths in her daughter-in-law that she never noticed before as a direct result of learning about character strengths in the sessions. Now she sees that her daughter-in-law has a lot of curiosity and a true love of learning. Anita truly appreciates these qualities now.

SHG Resilience Project | CorStone
Women share intimate emotions and influential moments | SHG Resilience Project

Anita’s SHG is also planning to start meeting again since attending the SHG Resilience Program. They are planning to start their savings and loan activities again. Anita is very dedicated to making sure that this happens and says that she will use her strengths of teamwork and perspective to ensure the group meets regularly.

“I have to reach higher, and that’s what I do.” #SelfHelpGroup #Resilience Click To Tweet

Harnessing tools to succeed

Anita now says that two of her main strengths are persistence and self-regulation. Some may find these strengths apparent in her story. However, Anita had never realized these things about herself before attending the program. Now, she says, “I feel I have the ability to progress in my life.

The CorStone SHG Resilience Project was supported with funds provided by PCI through its donor the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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