Heifer International Nepal
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Self Help Group (SHG) Saving for Women’s Sustainability and Resilience

In the history of Heifer projects, SHG (self-help group) saving fund is regarded as one of the major activity contributing to the five domains of Theory of Change "Social Capital" for sustainable improvement in the socio-economic status and well-being of these groups. These groups of micro-entrepreneurs from identical social and economic backgrounds voluntarily come together to save regular small sums of money with the objective to contribute to a common fund and to meet their emergency needs on the basis of mutual understanding and support. The group members use cooperative measures (using skills they have developed through various training) and peer pressure to ensure end-use of credit and timely payment. This model in the Heifer Project has been very beneficial in reaching the population below the poverty line or at the thresholds of poverty. By delivering micro-enterprise services in the community where access to banks and other financial institutions are limited, it has led to the adoption of money saving-culture, developed awareness and self-reliance among the small holders. Since the intervention of the project (1 – 3 years) their habitual savings have served them as an Oasis at the time of emergence. At the same time, saved their time and work days, (time they used to spend in canvassing for loans), reduced costs for travel and transaction to both the lenders and borrowers. Yam Kumari, Monsoon OG (Original Group), Tangram VDC, Baglung says “We started saving from a very small amount of 5 cents per month as general saving but now we are capable of saving USD 2 per month at maximum. We have other different saving schemes as well, like child education, pension, fixed, general, etc.". Tham Kumari Siri, Chairperson of Saptrangi Social Entrepreneur Women’s Cooperative (SEWC) from Tangram, Baglung said “our cooperative was established in September 2014 with 37 share members in the beginning. But now, there are 205 share members and we are putting much effort in encouraging more of our women to get affiliated because we need more capital to expand our investment into productive sectors. Our total savings account to USD 27,941”. Mr. Steven Yung, Heifer Board of Director visited the cooperative during his visit to Nepal in May and was impressed with the progress of SHGs and cooperative. He encouraged the women to continue striving to work hard and celebrate the power of a blissful gift that keeps on giving. There are 5,289 SHGs in Heifer Project areas in Nepal and their total savings account to approx. USD 2 million as of June 2016. Irrespective to their size or age, each one of these SHGs practice regular savings with a common goal to accumulate capital and institutionalize into cooperatives for the expansion of their social enterprise. Similar to Tham Kumari, there are more than 150 women led SEWC in Heifer Project areas in Nepal. One can only assume that if with such little help, the members of the SHG are able to achieve so much, what heights they will reach with more dedicated efforts, every day they become more confident and more resilient in the lives.

Story and photo by: Manish Bdr. Khadka, PME Officer