Livelihood & Women Empowerment

The role of women is significant and crucial for the progress of rural households in our local and national economy. Both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have gender equality and women’s empowerment at their core.

There is consensus that India’s future growth depends in part on addressing the severe current deficit in gender equity. Much work has been done to address this discrimination through legislation, social policy, grass roots organizing, educational targeting and public sector training. Still, the women are severely underrepresented in all spheres.

Sabuj Sangha aims to empower the women by ensuring their participation in the development process through the various programmes.
Digital Sakhi Programme:
Digital Sakhi, a programme on digital financial inclusion for rural women, was launched on November 2019 in the East Midnapore District of West Bengal.

‘Digital Sakhi’ is a woman from a rural area with a digital device in hand, equipped with skills and knowledge to confidently impart digital financial literacy training to women in the villages. It encourages women to conduct daily transactions using the digital mode. In today’s world, the true meaning of the word ‘Literacy’ has gone beyond the ability to read and write. The programme is one such initiative that focuses on empowering rural women through initiating and strengthening their ability to use digital tools targeted at financial inclusion.

A total of 450 Digital Sakhis across 133 villages and 12 blocks in East Midnapore were oriented by Sabuj Sangha to start their work and continue their work of economic empowerment. These Sakhis had gone through various training and gained knowledge on Digital Financial Literacy, various modes of payments and various government entitlements. This initiative has been widely appreciated by the community people, the local stakeholders, and the government departments.

The programme gained much momentum during the COVID – 19 pandemic when the economy has come to a halt. Their work became very crucial as they worked on the awareness to achieve self-reliance for money transfer, money withdrawal and money deposited through AEPS mode of payment. The Digital Sakhis reached out to people on awareness on COVID-19 related beneficial schemes and also distributed ration kits, masks, soaps, and information leaflets. At present all the women involved with his programme gradually becoming economically sustainable and playing dignified roles in their family.
Sundarbans German Bakery:

Located at the very heart of Nandakumarpur, South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal is the Sunderbans German Bakery managed and owned by women of Sunderbans since the year 2015. Under the guidance of Sabuj Sangha, a women’s SHG federation ‘Sundarbans Mohila Swanirvar Gosthi Cooperative Ltd.’, the Bakery prepares affordable nutritious fresh Bakery products to the local people through the local market and also supplies its product to other places like Mathurapur-I block and Kolkata. Every day, 200 kgs of flour used to produce varieties of biscuits, bread, cakes and cookies. The Bakery also produces protein rich biscuits, which are quite flavoursome and nutritious for the malnourished children in the area and others.

The Bakery provides livelihood to approximately 50 families in the region. Women play a crucial role starting from the Production to marketing and Sales and to Accounts keeping. Almost 50 local young enterprising people endeavours to collect the products and sell it to the local market directly from the Bakery. With increasing demand the Bakery has now become an inspiration for many to start their own entrepreneurship.

For almost 8 years now, the Bakery has grown as one of the biggest production unit in the locality comprising of 10 staff. The ones who were uneducated, socially and economically vulnerable are increasingly becoming confident, addressing poverty and bringing changes in their living standards and gaining decision making powers.
Holistic Rural Development Programme:
Sundarbans, the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest, is one of the richest and unique ecosystems in the world. Sundarbans is home to 4.5 million of India’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Per capita income in the region is about 50 cents per day, which is half of the internationally accepted indicator of extreme poverty. Without the option of industrial development, the livelihood choices of the people of Sundarbans are limited to land and natural resource-based activities. Nearly 80% of the households pursue livelihood options involving inefficient production methods of agriculture, fishing and aquaculture. The local population relies heavily on the mangroves as it provides fodder, fuel wood, tanbarks, fish, honey and medicines.

Sagar the largest island of Sundarbans being isolated from mainland is already deprived from various amenities and various facilities that help man live a dignified living. This is specifically applicable for marginalized people who with the vulnerability of nature, erratic coastal hazards like soil erosion, flood, cyclones etc. Several past years it has damaged the economy of marginalized people specifically who are closely engaged with agriculture. In this context Sabuj Sangha has taken various development initiatives with a holistic approach under the Holistic Rural Development Programme (HRDP). The goal of this project is integrated village development in Sagar Island through Climate Resilience and Appropriate Livelihood Options for Marginalized People.
Agriculture Resource Centre:

Sunderbans is one of the remotely located areas in the geographical map of the world. Since many years, the area has attracted the attention of the tourists, national and international for its rich cultural diversity and habitat. The people of Sunderbans are mostly dependent on either forest resources or fishing or agriculture. Even today, some areas in Sunderbans have still remained very isolated and non-arrived. This area is also highly susceptible to climate disasters.

Owing to such challenges, it became imperative for Sabuj Sangha to develop and manage an Agricultural Resource Centre (ARC) at Herambagopalpur Gram Panchayat in the Patharpratima Block of South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal on 2 acre of land. The ARC aims to create opportunities towards sustainable agricultural production by organic farming. This centres acts as a resource for information dissemination related to high yielding varieties of seeds, pest management and control, vermin-composting, development of nutrition garden, high humidity chambers and encouraging farmers towards organic production of crops and their benefits. Additionally, trainings are conducted with farmers on improved techniques and optimum utilisation of land for farming to increase production. 

More than 1000 farmers are registered to visit the Centre and appreciate the services. This centre also generates revenue through its yearly produce from 60% of the land around the centre.

During the pandemic, the ARC extended cash support to the affected families for livelihood restoration.

The experience definitely, proves that farmers need hands on training to enhance understanding. The centre has become completely self-sufficient, and inspires hundreds of farmers to become self-sustaining and reach out to more number of farmers in the coming years.
Ila Gouri Hastashipa Prashikshan Kendra
Sabuj Sangha has initiated an exclusive Handicraft unit for the marginalized women of remote Sundarbans who formed various Self Help Groups and united under the umbrella of an SHG Federation namely Sundarban Mohila Swanirvar Gosthi Cooperative Society and have endeavoured to earn for themselves with their potentials they own.

With the inspiration and support from Dr. Amal Mukhopadhyay, Philanthropist and Scientist from Germany the unit was started and named in memory of Ms. Ila & Gouri Mukhopadhyay (two sisters)- Ila Gouri Hastashilpa Prashikshan Kendra

Presently the unit is producing Petticoats and has a target of producing 100,000 Petticoats this year.

The marginalized women from the remote Sundarbans villages with this quality produce and selling the same are gradually becoming self-reliant.