Shantamma is the leader of a GCI initiated Self Help Group (SHG) in the Mariampet hamlet of Muthukapalli GP. She is 40 years old. She has not attended any formal schooling.
Shantamma’s husband is a spendthrift; they have three sons aged between 24 to 28 years, who find odd jobs for a living. Shantamma works on a small piece of land growing ragi – regional millet and vegetables which she sells to the locals in order to make some money.
She bought a cow with the loan she borrowed from the SHG and sells the milk to the local milk cooperative. She choose to join the Women’s Transformative Leadership Collective to learn about how she could benefit from the government. Over the last two years, she says she has gained:
- the real meaning of being independent
- knowledge of the Indian Constitution
- knowledge of the role of the people in governance and how to hold elected representative accountable.
Shantamma feels empowered with the information and knowledge shared during the workshops, but feels there is more work to be done.
Shantamma stated that in the beginning, her group of women questioned the usefulness of being part of a collective that did not provide loans or credit. They even refused to attend the initial SHG monthly meetings, fearing GCI would be there to talk about violence on women or wage discrimination. After several focus group meetings and after two applications filed by GCI volunteers living in the village, they realised the usefulness of the workshop meetings. The women also realised that these meetings provided the space for them to share their experiences. It was only after the RTI applications were filed and the village council officials began visiting them that the women realised they were being listened to/shown respect by the officials even if it was only to ask them to take back the applications.
Shantamma is able to convince and mobilise her group as well as other women from nearby villages. Her husband too has begun to come and sit around with other men during the Collective’s meetings.
She plans to gather five women and the group plans to cultivate a part (one acre for now) of land owned by GCI. This is a pilot program to showcase collective and organic farming.