Tirthan Valley Mahila Samuh

We called Vandana the very next morning to confirm if the women were interested in meeting us that afternoon. She asked us to reach the village by 12. So, the team left for Tindar with Poonam and I was to follow after I printed some necessary documents. I met the team just as they were entering the village. The site that greeted us in Tindar was not one we were prepared for.

The women took us near a house where everyone had gathered. There, under that house, a huge group of women were making felt. The ones who had come down for the training had actually taught their friends. The entire group was enjoying the process. There was no limit to our joy. We could see that they really wanted to learn and to grow. They had restored our high spirits and intensified our belief in them.

Making felt toghether
Making felt together
Meera didi making felt
Meera didi completing the process

Just beside the felt making group was our Lata didi making a cloth out of wool in the very efficient machine used by the locals with her husband. The process was really interesting to see. Both of us were reminded of Tilonia. We told them how this can be a potential way to make another types of bags.

Lata didi weaving with her husband
Lata didi weaving with her husband

After the cloth making was over, we went to our usual meeting spot near the village temple and began the meeting. Our meeting was divided into two parts: the first phase was playing 3-D monopoly with the women and the second was discussing the Bye laws and making the group. For the game, we divided them into 2 groups and gave them a small amount of money (made out of newspaper) to start with. For property they could buy villages and make Homestays and fields over it. They had to pay certain money to buy them and then the other were same as monopoly regarding saving and the rent system.

Explaining the game rules
Explaining the game rules
The stop at Pekhri village
The stop at Pekhri village

Two of us, Arindam and Tryphena became the pawns, Shrija and Shuchi were the advisors for respective teams, Poonam was the bank and I was the dice and the game-master. We had a lot of fun while playing and the women picked up basic ideas about investing and managing their business’ money.

The winning team's cashier counts her money
The winning team’s cashier counts her money

Post the fun, games and obviously debrief which was basically a discussion over how saving and investment at the right place play key role in business, we sat down for some serious discussions about the formation of the group. Again to our disbelief, twenty five women sat down for the discussion! That was more than double of what we had expected. Anyways, we carried on as experience had taught us that the number would reduce by the time we end. We ran through the bye-laws again, made a few changes and formulated the remaining rules.

A long, serious discussion ensues
A long, serious discussion ensues

Now, it was the time for decision. We had to decide who would be the Chairperson, secretary and treasurer for the group. Somehow, out of nowhere, we found that a small group of women wanted to create two self-help groups in the same village and work with the exact same product. We could sense the possible negative effects that could have. We were lucky to have Dulhesinghji (Vandana’s father) around. He helped us handle the situation, calm the women down and convince them to make only one group. By the end of it, there were twelve women who remained.After great discussion, the three positions were decided. Kavita Thakur was to be the Chairperson, Lata Thakur was the chosen secretary and Meera Devi was the Treasurer.

Deciding the Chairperson,Secretary and Treasurer
Deciding the Chairperson,Secretary and Treasurer

We got all their signatures on it. We had finally succeeded in our mission. One month and four villages later, we had a women self help group ready to work! They are going to start with making bags out of felt for now.

The Tirthan Valley Mahila Samuh and us.
The Tirthan Valley Mahila Samuh and us.
Our team after the creation of the SHG
Our team after the creation of Tirthan Valley Mahila Samuh

After lunch, when we were about to set out, it started pouring. Since we were stuck in the rain, Poonam and I decided to start a session that we had been thinking of for a long time. We initiated a somewhat modified version of “Life-maps” in phase one. Phase two was “360 degree feedback” session. Both of us wanted to ensure the growth of every individual on the team along with taking leaps in team dynamics. Uma, Cheena and Lavanya – you taught us well. Everyone participated with great honesty and sincerity. We all walked away understanding each other better and with great feedback. The best part was that the kids understood it better and we could see the bonds improving. We hope this positively impacts the team.

Conducting life-maps when stalled by the rain
Conducting life-maps when stalled by the rain

We rushed back to tell our friends about the progress we had made. They were happy that we will be staying longer to finish the bank work.

Monday, we start the bank work for Tirthan Valley Mahila Samuh.

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