Indian self help groups inspire UK women

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Last year, women from seven different neighbourhoods in Glasgow came to Mumbai and elsewhere in India, on a trip organised by the Church of Scotland, to look at the model of our self-help groups(SHG). These groups involve women living in very poor conditions who come together to put their savings in a common fund, which they eventually use to make everybody in the group self-employed . Inspired by these SHGs they formed Provanmill self reliant group and started the lunch club in a church hall.

Here is an excerpt of the report published in www.bbc.co.uk

The lunch club was set up last year by the Provanmill self-reliant group, local women who wanted to provide an amenity for the community but also help themselves.

“I saw a lot of women making a difference to their lives, to their family’s lives,” says Liz Taylor, one of the Provanmill group who went to India and was inspired by what she saw there. “The circumstances that they were living in you wouldn’t think it would have been possible, that they would have had the power inside them, the energy, but they were able to come together, start saving and had done wonderful things with it.”I knew it could work over here,” she concludes.

The Provanmill group decided they would try to harness the power of women working together to try to help one of their member, Jake Crawley, realize her dream of getting off benefits and opening a laundrette.

They began by putting in £1 a week each. That buys ingredients for the lunch club and leaves a little left over. Now they also do alterations and ironing. All the women are volunteers.

Eventually they hope to be able to create jobs for other women in the area.

 So why does something which has its roots in India seem to be working in Glasgow?

“Having grown up in this community we know how everyone knows everyone’s business,” says Ellie Shields, a youth worker at the church, who also made the trip to India. “We’re all involved in each other’s lives so why couldn’t we support each other in this way as well?

“A lot of people see a lot of negatives in the area. They see a lot of violence, drug use, very, very poor families, a lot of social work cases, but also within that there is a lot of community spirit, there’s a lot of people helping each other out.

“They all have their own talents, their own ways of surviving and so that’s what this is about; it’s just on a larger scale.”

Bringing the self-reliant groups to Scotland is the idea of Noel Mathias, who works with the Church of Scotland. He argues a developed country can learn lessons from what women in India have done.

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