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In Conversation with Alka Joshi

April 16, 2022

Samarthaya: To lead the transformation was organized by Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, IIT Roorkee on 2nd & 3rd April. Samarthaya aims to work as a platform which brings Self Help Groups (SHGs), farmers, NGOs industry experts and students together. Under this, multiple events were organized with varying themes like elevating rural india, women empowerment, and leadership building.

10 Self Help Groups (SHGs) set up their stalls in ABN Ground under this event. SHGs are a group of people who come together to address their financial problems, recognised by the government under several schemes. The members share knowledge and give financial support to each other, with the final aim of mutual growth. The SHGs at Samarthya mainly dealt in organic and natural products. One such SHG was the Tulsi SHG from Chharba village in Dehradun district. WatchOut! Interviewed Mrs. Alka Joshi, the coordinator of Tulsi SHG. Here are a few excerpts from that interview-

WO: Ma’am could you tell us something about yourself?
Mrs. Alka Joshi: My name is Alka Joshi. My family and I shifted from Haryana to Dehradun. I’ve been working with SHGs since 2018. I’m currently the coordinator of Tulsi SHG and actively involved with the cluster of 7-8 SHGs of Chharba. I help women make a daily living not just for themselves but also for their families. I train women on how to make and sell their own products. We started working with UBA IITR in 2019.

WO: What are SHGs?
A: Self Help Groups (SHGs) are peer-controlled groups of people with similar socio-economic backgrounds whose main aim is to tackle problems that can only be solved via collective effort, and profit each member individually. SHGs have become a means for women to empower themselves while receiving additional financial support not only for themselves, but also for their households.

Q: Did you work before being involved with Tulsi?
A: I used to live in Haryana. I’ve done many jobs before joining SHGs. I had a beauty parlor for a while, I’ve done tailoring and taught other women how to tailor. I’ve worked in a private company as well.

Q: How did you start working with SHGs?
A: When we moved to Dehradun, our neighbors encouraged me to join an SHG. I was hesitant at first as I didn’t know anything about them but I joined them anyway. Once I joined Tulsi, I started enjoying the work I did. I was getting paid for it and at the same time I was helping other women also find their livelihood. The biggest thing about working in an SHG for me is the respect that I earned.

Q: Tell us about Tulsi.
A: Tulsi is the name of an SHG in Chharba. I am the coordinator of Tulsi. We have twelve women and all of us are earning money by making our products. We have a paper glass making business. I make achaar, murabba, and papad. We’ve helped people, especially women, set up their own small business. We helped them with the investment money and trained them with certain skills needed to run their business. One of us has her beauty parlor. We helped another woman open a fast-food shop. There’s a lady whose husband didn’t have any job so we gave him an auto. She earns by cattle rearing and her husband earns through auto. For the future of Tulsi, I want that we haveat least one outlet in all the big cities so that there’s a permanent market unlike melas which are seasonal.

Q: How do you ensure that small businesses make enough money to live decently?
A: I believe that any work done in the right way is profitable. Even then if there is loss in someone’s business, we don’t tell them to stop with what they’re doing and start something else. We help them with money and train them again on how to run their business so that they can profit out of it.

Q: How have SHGs helped women?
A: SHGs have helped women speak up. Until a few years ago when a woman was something, she would not answer well even in front of her family. Now, the same woman can answer with confidence in front of 50 men.

Q: How was your experience with UBA IITR?
A: They’ve helped us very much. Every time they come to the village, they come with a plan. They go door-to-door explaining an issue and spreading awareness. They promote our products. When I started my achaar business, they organized an inauguration event where they invited everyone from the village and urged them to try test products. They’ve given computers in Chharba. They’ve conducted online classes for the children of our village. During COVID, they organized online programs where they tried to solve problems that farmers were facing. They’ve increased our self-confidence in many ways.

Q: How was Samarthya helpful?
A: I’m glad that Samarthya happened. I’ve been to other events which were very formal. Samarthya made us feel like the people here actually want to help us. It makes me very happy how they’ve taken care of every small need of ours that even our own kids would not have. I hope that more events like Samarthya are organized and we come here more often.

Q: What do you want your future to be?
A: I would definitely want to work with SHGs till the end. Apart from that, I was hoping to publish a book of mine. I’ve written around 60 poems as of now and I’d like to see a book of my poems published.