AmritaSREE Self Help Groups decide to give to others in need
May 31, 2018 – Alappuzha, Kerala, India
“Women can perform all tasks just as well as men—perhaps even better,” said Amma in her landmark speech on Women Empowerment & Gender Equality at the UN in 2002. “Women have the willpower and creative energy to do any type of work. Amma can say this based on her own experience. Whatever the form of action, women can attain extraordinary heights.”
It was upon this vision that Amrita Self-Reliance, Education & Employment (AmritaSREE) was founded in 2005. It is Embracing the World’s first self help group (SHG) project aimed at empowering women to become self-reliant, active members of society. To date, 200,000 women are active participants across India.
Recently, two conventions celebrating the successes of the AmritaSREE project took place in Kerala’s Alappuzha District. More than 30,000 women from AmritaSREE’s 3,000 SHGs participated in both events. At the event, women SHG members expressed their gratitude to Amma by giving back to society.
“As Amma has helped us, we wanted to help others,” said Usha K. from the Devika SHG.
From the profits they gained from their cottage industries, the women saved enough money to build houses and help poorer families get basic medical treatment. This after they themselves had been helped over the years by their SHGs.
The keys to the new houses were handed over to the beneficiaries in the presence of Swami Purnamritananda and other dignitaries. Embracing the World also distributed saris for the SHG members at the celebration.
SHGs form when 10 to 20 women come together as members, with each one giving a small fee to the SHG’s bank account every month. Through the gathered funds, they work together to start small businesses from which they can earn for their families. They also provide microloans to members when help is needed.
“AmritaSREE gave me a home, lent me money for the marriage of my daughter and now, I am taking another loan for my daughter’s delivery,” says Sunithi with the Nirkunnam SHG. She adds that without that support, her family would’ve had to borrow from loan sharks, as due to their low income they were rejected by banks.
Beenamma is another member of Sunithi’s SHG. She explains, “There is so much pride in the knowledge that they have saved and can take care of themselves. Nobody fails to repay their loan.”
AmritaSREE began after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2005 when Amma was so saddened by the conditions of women in the poorer communities. Many lacked even basic food and necessities to survive and resorted to chewing betel leaves to stave off hunger. Others were entrenched in abusive relationships and had no means to get out of poverty.
“The black day still looms large over us. The Tsunami stole my sweet daughter. It stole from my friends their husbands, children, brothers and sisters. We lost everything in the fury of that giant wave,” says K. Lisa. She is with Amritakripa SHG in the Alappad district in Kerala.
“With the guarantee of the ashram, we were granted a bank loan to start a small shrimp peeling shed after saving only a small sum of money in the bank,” she continues. “For a very reasonable price, AmritaSREE helped us build a shed and buy the huge pots and trolleys needed for peeling.
“In two years we completely repaid the loan. Now, as we slowly build up our savings, our children study in good schools. We are planning to make our shed bigger so more women can join us as partners in peeling shrimp.”
AmritaSREE works by giving the women capital to form a small SHG. Many groups also take part in vocational training and basic financial-literacy courses that jump-start their ideas for small businesses.
After investing the capital, groups create economically viable cottage industries such as making soap, snacks, packing curry powder or tailoring clothes. Others facilitate loans to individual members to promote community growth, sparing them the indignity of bank refusals and the unscrupulous methods of loan sharks. Now the women have become so successful that they are giving back to society.
Founded on strong spiritual values, the AmritaSREE SHG cooperatives transform women to become self-empowered and financially independent. More and more women are benefiting from this project conceptualized and blessed by Amma.
“We are grateful to Amma for her love and guidance that helped us survive our deep losses and become confident and prosperous,” concludes K. Lisa.