Jan Chetna Manch, Bokaro considers women’s empowerment the cornerstone for any developmental activity. Without women’s empowerment they will remain weak and unhealthy; children will fail to flourish; the family will not be a happy or contented one; and society as a whole will suffer.
Stemming from this belief, JCMB has been engaged in the formation of women’s self help groups for over two decades. For JCMB the formation of SHGs was always a means to an end: and the end was not only to provide credit to poor families in times of need – however much this was needed – but was a step towards empowering women.
The very act of 15 to 20 women sitting together once a week to decide financial affairs of the group is an empowering strategy. Men are not allowed in these meetings. From 1995 the number of SHGs grew, and established a federation known as the ‘Mahila Mandal Samiti’ in the late ‘90’s. This federation was facilitated directly by JCMB. In 2009 the federation set up their own autonomous cooperative, the ‘Chetna SHG Mahila Swabalambi Sahkari Samiti Ltd.’ By now over 500 groups have been set up in the villages. The collective savings of all the women’s groups now exceeds 2.5 crores (25 million) rupees. The total number of share holders of this cooperative as on 31st March 2017 is 7036, the value of each share being Rs.100. All the board members are women, elected once every 3 years.
Apart from managing financial matters the women’s groups take up many other activities such as protesting against sexual and domestic violence of its members and even of women who are not; protesting against denial of entitlements and corruption. Once a year all the members of the SHGs meet on the occasion of International Women’s Day, on 8th March.