The primary shareholders of Umang are members of Self Help Groups located in over 200 tiny hamlets spread across the Gagas and Kosi river basins. These SHGs have been involved with laying the foundations of various socio-economic-ecological activities at the local village level as well as over macro river basins.
Typically, SHGs comprise of 10-20 women who meet regularly to support each other through a simple system of micro finance, whereby each member volunteers to save a token amount of Rs.10 – Rs.100 every month in a bank account controlled by the group chair and treasurer.
Accumulated funds are then available to members in need of micro credit, usually for healthcare, livestock improvement, housing and education. This arrangement provides members with financial independence and liberty from threats associated with rapacious market forces. Within the last decade over 3,000 women (essentially small and marginal farmers) have accumulated Rs.8.00 million, of which almost seventy per cent revolves as small loans amongst themselves.
However, our SHGs are not mere micro finance institutions. They provide the institutional framework for many of our community development programs, such as ecological restoration, sanitation, renewable energy, agriculture and livelihoods improvement.
These SHGs, over a period of time, further the cause of empowering women through confidence-building mechanisms in order to increase participation in socio-political arenas and gaining financial independence through engagement in sustainable income generating activities.
Increasingly more and more members of Umang are now taking on additional roles in their communities to make a difference in their surrounding environments and local governance systems. Last but not the least SHGs play the critical role of providing emotional sustenance to each other when the odds are stacked against them.
The general body of Mahila Umang Producers Compnay comprises of these SHGs as insitutional share holders and subsequently, members are selected as Board Members of the company.