The Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti (PSSS) translates as ‘empowering the women of Purkal’. It is a registered Society dedicated to enhancing the lives of the disadvantaged women of the Community by empowering them. It is a non-profit organisation.
The Society works in a rural village outside Dehradun known as Purkal, located in the foothills of the Himalayas. Many families in the area lack basic education and skills and suffer from various cultural and social problems which keep them locked in a continuous cycle of poverty.
The goal of PSSS is to develop in the women, who are part of the program, entrepreneurial skills so that they can manage a business and maximize their income.
As a first step the program aims to empower rural women by providing skill training and a work space to produce hand-made products for the home which they can sell. As the women work and earn they move closer to being entrepreneurs as leaders emerge among them who begin to take responsibility for the business.
More than 125 women currently work under the umbrella of the Stree Shakti brand – their workspace is comfortable, airy and hygienic; there is a crèche providing not merely custodial care but also preschool education to over 50 children belonging to these women.
These children are growing and the women are happy that they are getting quality education that will provide a foundation for good schooling.
The Society does not engage in commerce – it is a charity promoting the empowerment of women. It addresses questions of skill and organisation development and aims to face issues of health and nutrition among the women.
The Society facilitates the functioning of the SHGs that operate under it.
The Society provides training to batches of women so that the craft gets established among the women of the community. These crafts of patchworking, appliqué and embroidery – Western in origin – are new to this area. The designs have been Indianised and it also has an appeal because of the Indian prints and fabrics that are used.
Training lasts 6 months and during it the women receive an honorarium and some support by way of nutrition and medical care. The women who complete their training either constitute a new Self Help Group (SHG) or choose to join one of the SHGs already in operation. Vacancies arise in the established SHGs when trained members leave for reasons such as marriage, having a child etc.
Organically in this process about 10 self-help groups have been created so for. These SHGs accept responsibility for specific items of production and make money through these products being created and sold. The one trainer employed by the Society is able to train a maximum of 20 women at a time. On an average about 15 women of each batch complete their training. This is how the work force is gradually growing. All the assets which are used by the SHGs are owned by the society and these are used by the women free of cost. Working capital of about Rs. 30 lac has also been funded for the benefit of the women. The building comprising of about 5000 sq/ft which is used by the SHGs is also owned by the sister society – Purkal Youth Development Society – and is available to the SHGs free of rent as a measure to promote the women’s empowerment program.
The SHGs and the Society are separate Legal entities – each of the SHGs is an independent entity managing its own affairs. They are managed by a Leader designated as President, assisted by a Secretary and a Treasurer. They have regular meetings of the members and takes decisions that impact the business of their group. Each SHG manages its own bank account and aims to maximise profit.
Functions of the Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti
The ultimate objective of the Society is to help the SHGs grow into independent commercial operations, capable of successfully managing their own business. We are trying to do this by helping them to become entrepreneurs. The SHGs are guided at every stage by the management of the Society which provides support services.
It has helped build an organization for the entire Operation. There are designers, accountants, store keepers and staff meant for marketing and selling.
The Chief Executive of the Society is an artist and a trained interior designer. With her sense of colour and design she is able to give good direction in the matters of design and product development. She works full time in a voluntary capacity and has helped train several women.
The Secretary of Society has been an economist who worked as a consultant with industrial entrepreneurs. He provides his experience in project management and finance to the Society. He also works as a full time volunteer and therefore is no burden to the SHGs.
Apart from the CEO and the Secretary, there is a stream of volunteers from India and abroad who are able to lend their expertise in skill development, marketing and retailing for no additional cost. All these volunteers are helping the Society establish systems and procedures that make for the building of the Organization to serve the needs of the SHGs.
The entire management team of the Society (whose cost is met by the SHGs) has been trained and put in place by the Society. Hopefully, the Organization will, in time, be managed by the SHGs as it is currently managed by the CEO and the Secretary. Whatever are the current costs of this management are shared by the SHGs on a monthly basis.
Operation of Self Help Groups
Each SHG has a maximum of 10 members and each group is an independent economic unit. They work under the umbrella of Stree Shakti which provides assistance in training, design development, joint purchases and joint marketing efforts.
Each SHG two bank accounts, one being their business account and another savings account. The former account is meant to receive the sale proceeds of all products created by them and sold in the market. Such sales are duly accounted to the appropriate SHG and the entire sale proceeds are credited to them. These cash is used by the SHGs to pay the Society for the materials required to make the products and the money needed to pay wages to the SHG members. The responsibility for making sure that the SHGs are viable falls to the SHGs themselves.
SHGs share the operational expenses of the entire manufacturing and selling process. These are computed monthly on an actual basis and divided equally.
Since the proceeds of all sales are passed onto the SHGs they are also responsible for the direct cost and the operational expenses. Surplus, if there is any left at the end of the year, belongs to the SHGs.
The second account maintained by the SHGs contains the savings of their members. Each member of an SHG saves Rs. 120 per month and the total monies are credited to the saving bank account of the SHG. These funds have become extremely useful for the members for meeting their urgent needs such as paying school fees, repairs to their homes and medical costs.
Upgrading women artisans and helping them become part of the management team
From the very beginning the attempt has been to train and upgrade the women artisans and help them occupy positions of responsibility. As of now we have 6 members, trained and promoted from among the women who serve in the management team. There is a Design Assistant, a Supervisor, a Quality Controller, 2 Trainers and a Store Assistant.
Also each of the leaders of the 10 SHGs is a manager in her own right.
We have consciously attempted to build design support from among the staff by helping them undergo a one year course in design at the Negi Insititute.
The Society needs donations for growing the Concept
It was possible to acquire the infrastructure and the equipment now used by the SHGs only because of donations. The building occupied by the Society was also built out of such donations.
As the organisation expanded the addition working capital required again came from donations.
- We are hoping to fund the further needs of working capital, arising out of a higher turnover, from the surpluses generated out of the operations. However, if these needs exceed the surpluses generated they will need to be found out of further donations. Just now there is a shortfall of cash and the Society is looking for additional donations to meet this need. The gap is Rs. 10 Lacs.
- Welfare activities aimed at women welfare are also met through donations. We wish to provide a hot balanced meal every day to all the women working under the umbrella of Stree Shakti at a subsidized cost – this will requires the construction of a fully equipped kitchen and thereafter funding the kitchen from month to month. We will need a stream of donations to finance this worthwhile programme.
- It is also intended to provide a certain limited health care to all the women. Annual health checkup, annual oral care, eye examination and care apart from a degree of gynecological care are being envisaged. A fund created for the purpose could ensure such support to all the members of the SHGs. We intend to set up a fund for this purpose as well.