‘Self-less’ help group that saved village from clutches of usury
Amudha says through Tanwa, the women in their village are able to meet their own financial needs and their families without bearing the brunt of usury. No one borrows money from the local goons anymor
Published: 15th January 2023 05:18 AM | Last Updated: 15th January 2023 05:18 AM | A+A A-
VILLUPURAM: In a bleak sunny afternoon, a bunch of school kids walk into a tiny cool bar nestled among the dusty lanes of Thodarnthanur village in Viluppuram. From bright orange fizzy drinks and refreshing lemonade with a dash of ginger to classic lemon juice with a pinch of salt, this cool bar is often the saviour for locals and visitors from the parched weather. Behind the counter stands a humble woman in her early-40s, stout enough to deal with all kinds of people from near and far. She is Kala, a member of Tanwa (Tamil Nadu Women in Agriculture) Farm which received the Manimegalai Award for the best SHG from the state government in December 2022.
Founded in 2006, with not more than 12 women members, Tanwa is a depiction of what woman empowerment truly looks like. When the members of the SHG received the award from the chief minister, it was an acknowledgement of their hard work and resilience. “Our only goal was to save up some money through our humble ensemble and start a business on our own. We began our journey as tailors, stitching clothes for our neighbours,” says Tanwa founder K Amudha (52).
17 years on, Tanwa has 150 members with individual investments of up to `500, all equally involved in the production and marketing of food products, including snacks, rice and pickles and dairy products. They also own tailoring units, refreshment shops and cattle farms across the village. Besides these, the SHG has been seminal in putting an end to usury in the village by providing opportunities for women to start small businesses, helping cooperative banks reach out to more people and supporting the village administration.
Kala, a homemaker and a mother of an eight-year-old girl, was able to escape the clutches of money lenders as the SHG became a source of comfort that helped her support her family’s needs. “I joined Tanwa as a tailor, but once I earned and saved enough, I started my own soft drinks store in the village. Sometimes, when we face a financial crunch due to unforeseen needs, we used to borrow money from someone in the village. This usually takes a toll on us when we are unable to pay back the money at high interest rates. However, since I joined the SHG, my family has been able to easily save money for future or miscellaneous expenses, especially for my daughter’s healthcare and education.”
S Usha, a 42-year-old member who rears cows for her dairy business, recalls how Tanwa’s paths were strewn with challenges, especially those directed by residents of the village. “There were people, especially men, who would try to rain on our parade with lewd comments that labelled SHG work as unethical and derogatory to our families. They also did not hold back from shamelessly spreading filthy rumours about our character. But these challenges never held us back from carrying out our regular chores such as going to the banks and conducting events in the village, all thanks to the few people who supported us,” she says.
For Tanwa members, the key reason to stay with the SHG has been the unconditional respect and self-respect they are able to cultivate. Members are able to support their families and meet financial needs – duties that have been traditionally reserved for men in the family.
Kala, the soft drinks store owner, says how the members of the SHG have also taught other women in the village how to avail of loans from a bank and start businesses from scratch. “Usury is almost non-existent in Thodranthanur now,” she adds.Endorsing the statement, Amudha says through Tanwa, the women in their village are able to meet their own financial needs and their families without bearing the brunt of usury. No one borrows money from the local goons anymore, she adds.“From being abused for stepping out of our homes to proudly receiving the award from the Chief Minister for the best SHG, our journey has made us powerful and stronger. We tell our daughters to go explore the world, as we believe success awaits them out there,” says Amudha.