At the age of ten, I was sold out to an alcoholic husband, who was twenty years older to me. My father took a liquor bottle and thousand rupees from my husband for this deal. I can hardly count the days when I did not receive beatings from my husband. Before I reach the puberty, my husband developed a relationship with another woman and wanted to get rid of me. By the time I understood the meaning of married life; I was deserted by my husband and sent me to my parents when I was six-months pregnant.

We belong to a tribe of soothsayers. As beggars we used roam around house to house and tell fortune. In turn we would get some food, or grains or some warn out clothes. I had never seen currency in my home. I had never had an occasion to eat fresh cooked food made by my mother. I never wore new clothes. We were homeless. During the nights we slept in choultries (shelter-home) of the village. Sometimes we would go to the forest to collect palm leaves

to make brooms. There were four members in our family, my parents my sister and I. Tragedy struck my life suddenly; my father died and my sister also succumbed to her delivery complication leaving behind a girl-child. Consequently, I had to take care of my old mother and two little kids .I was shattered. I thought that it was the end of the life. But it was not to be. New life, new dreams and achievements… one by one transformed my life as if ordained by a Mantra. Can you believe?

Today I am a proud owner of two houses and eight milch animals worth (eight lakhs).My daughter did her nursing course and working as health worker. My son-in -law is a government employee. My three grand children are going to English medium schools. I worked as SHG federation secretary. I have fifty new sarees in my cupboard. Whenever I go to SHG meetings I never forget to wear my gold necklace. I understood my rights. Recently I came to know that a land lord in the village grabbed land from the government impersonating my father thirty years ago and had grown a mango-garden. Determined it take possession of the land I filed the case and got justice. Now I am leading a pleasant, peaceful and happy life. It has been possible because of my SHG. It taught me
MANTRA that transforms the life.

“When I said, I can not make savings, my group said, ‘you can.’
“When I said, ‘I cannot repay the loan’, my group said ‘you can.’
“When I say, ‘I cannot lead the group’, my SHG says, ‘you can.’

So far I took ten lakhs from the group and repaid it. I became the SHG leader VO president Block federation Executive member. I strongly believe that there is no other way for the women like me to come out of poverty except which the path of unity which SHG showed. This is my prophecy which as CRP I tell to other poor women.


A women who was treated as untouchable… her battle against poverty.
Ratnamma’s life was a case of discrimination, injustice, insults and poverty. Born into a poor untouchable family, she had to feed her five children with the meager income she could earn by fetching firewood from the nearby hillocks. Since her husband was a bonded-laborer, tied to a rich farmer for the debt owed by his father and grandfather, his contribution to the livelihood of the family was nil. So, Ratnamma had to work from dawn to dusk, fetching the firewood to sell to the villagers in weekly fair. Though she would get Rs 20 per a stack of firewood, this was hardly adequate to get a decent meal to her and the children. Her husband, who was working for the landlord to clear the debt, rarely he would show up at home. She had no answer when the kids asked about the absence of their father in the house. The loneliness used to haunt her and she endured all this in silence.

Having four daughters was seen as curse among the relatives who always talked ill of her.“It was this humiliation that hurt me more rather than the poverty I was in,” was her refrain.“None of children were in school. In those days my eldest daughter was 12 year old. She used to work in the cotton farms. She would go in morning and return in the evening. On many an occasion she would slip into sleep in night with empty stomach because food was not ready by then. She often fell sick because of the chemical fumes she inhaled in the cotton farm. ” Ratnamma recalls.
The evil of untouchability was rampant in the village. Poor were barred from passing through the village with footwear. Two-glass system was the practice in the local hotels. When thirsty, water was not given in glasses, it was poured into the cups of palms, because their touch contaminates the glasses. This was the plight of all the people from the poor families. But the entry of volunteers of UNDP raised the hopes for a change. The volunteers reached the village to identify the poor as part of the South Asia Poverty Alleviation Program-1995. Ratnamma was spotted by the group which encouraged her to join the selfhelp Groups, which they were launching in the village. The question faced Ratnamma was that what she could do in a thrift group when her entire earning was not enough to have proper meal a day. Encouraged by the volunteers finally she decides to join the Group without informing her husband. Every SHG conducts four meetings in a month Members of the group discuss the day today problems of their families and try to find solutions for the same. In one of the meetings, Rathnamma’s struggle for survival becomes the topic in the Group’s discussion and it was decided that freeing of her husband from the slavery would help her family immensely. The Group decided to extend a loan enough to repay the debt to the landlord in the village. It took it upon itself to go the farmer to repay the loan and free the bonded laborer. The freeing of her husband heralded a new phase in her life. With both husband and wife joining hand to earn more money, the income level rose and gradually Group’s loan was also cleared with their thrift amount.

The coming together of these women led to a realization that banishing the bonded labor and child-labor from the village would pave the way for the welfare of the Girl child. So, a school was set up by the SHG federation for those children who worked in farms and Ratnamma’s eldest daughter was the first to get enrolled as a student. The hamlet reverberated with the recital of alphabet of first generation students from the unlettered families. Ratnamma recalls “I was married off at a tender age of 13. Had I not joined the Group that enlightened me, my daughter also would have fallen victim to the age-old practice of child-marriage.” It took great courage for Ratnamma to resist the pressure from the members of caste and relatives who opposed the enrollment of her eldest daughter in the school. She was a pioneer in promoting girl child education in that village. Latter on fifty poor families in that village followed her and send their children to the child labour camp.

“Change is never welcomed with open arms. You need to summon a lot of courage to face the resistance. My experience has proven that resistance could be won over as a collective. First everybody was hesitant to join the Group. Once I took the lead, many had followed me. I began as member of the group then became leader of the village organization also worked as the president of the federation.
Sometimes the fact that I had taken as much as Rs 9.5 lakh from the Group reminds the long road I travelled. Now I am owner of a two-acre farm and cozy house. My husband is land-owning farmer. We supply vegetables to local markets. It is unbelievable that three daughters of a poor once-untouchable woman have completed general nursing and the fourth is in an undergraduate and my son is doing B.Tech. My daughters are working in the hospitals as general nurses. They are earning Rs 28,000 a month. My joy knew no bound when my eldest daughter had given me nice saree as a gift from the first salary she received as staff nurse. You know, what I got from the second daughter- a sparkling gold chain while third daughter presented beautiful anklets. Today we are a well respected family in the village. SHG has illuminated our lives. The SHG gives us the information about the welfare schemes of the government. The SHG is over tool to achieve her goals and realize our dreams. This helped our family to get the rations card, Job card, and Abhaya Hastam pension to my aunt. My family has Arogyasri coverage for the health. My son gets all his school fee reimbursed.
I believe that the day I joined the Group as a member, I took rebirth. Today, with all my experience, the joy at my command, I want deliver a message from my village which is bubbling with activity and hope. The message is……..A CURE IS DISCOVERED TO THE EVIL DECEASE OF POVERTY.
The cure is SELF HELP groups and their federations. And this magic is effective everywhere on the face of the earth. I took this message to lacks of poor women like me who are living in the remote villages of BIHAR, RAJASTAN, UTTAR PRADESH, JAMMU & KASHMIR as community resource person.


I hate poverty because I lost my three children and my husband due to the same. It forced me to keep my nine year old son in a land lords house for rearing buffaloes. While rearing the animals he met with an electrical shock and I lost him.
Hunger is the worst enemy of the poor. One day somebody threw out a hen died of some disease. To fulfill the long desire of my kids-eating chicken, my mother–in–law brought the died chicken to home and cooked it for us. After eating the diseased chicken total family fell sick. Somehow all of us recovered except my little daughter. She died of serious infection. That's how I lost my second child.
My three year old child walked towards a stream of water in search of me. At that time I went to neighbouring village in search of work. She drowned in water and disappeared. My husband was a TB patient, I lost him also. Poverty killed my beloved ones, one after the other mercilessly. The only reason I a was alive was for the sake of my last son.
I worked very hard day and night for many years to bring up my child. I used to pour water to mango saplings. Daily I used to carry more than 50 pots of water from the river to the field, from dawn to dusk. At the end of the day the orchid owner paid me a meagre amount of money and some stale food.
I continued my life in this utter poverty for many years. Physically I may be alive but all my interest in life died long ago. I developed a strong belief that, I WAS BORN TO SUFFER.
In 1995 many women in my village started joining SHGs. The day I joined the SHGs I took rebirth. My group opened many doors for me. I was identified as one of the poorest women in the village by my village organization. My first loan from the group was only Rs. 500. But in the 17 years, I took nearly 14 lakhs either from my SHG or bank or from my federation.
I started my livelihood by selling a tray of eggs. After paying the Rs. 500, I again borrowed a loan of Rs.5000 and purchased a goat. That gave birth to four lambs. With that profit I purchased one cow.
After few days, I took a little bit of land for lease to cultivate vegetables. Today I am the owner of 7 acres of land and one acre of mango orchid. My backyard is filled with 20 goats and 1 cow.
The most happiest thing that happened in my life was I got my three children back. My son found three kids who lost there parents in the tsunami. We brought them home and brought them up. I got them educated and married. And now my family is very big with four sons, four daughter-in-laws and four grand children.
Many years I felt that I was born to suffer. But my fellow SHG members, my federation corrected my belief by saying that "YOU ARE BORN TO WIN". YES, I DEFEATED POVERTY.