Women self-help groups (SHGs), the most potent symbol of women’s empowerment in the state, have been scripting one success story after another under the exemplary leadership of Mission Shakti commissioner-cum-secretary Sujata Karthikeyan. Heading the newly formed department, this 2000-batch IAS officer has been ensuring that these collectives get all the financial assistance and guidance that they need in a timely manner.
The department has been playing the role of facilitator in providing business opportunities to the SHGs which got business worth Rs 3,583.34 crore in the last two years despite the problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Notwithstanding the pandemic challenge, around nine lakh members of 83,000 SHGs did business with different departments of the state government. While the total business through 20,449 WSHGs was to the tune of Rs 1,411.82 crore in 2019-20, it was worth Rs 2,172.02 crore the next year. At present, nearly 70 lakh women, organized into six lakh groups across the state, are engaged in economically productive activities.
Under Karthikeyan’s able supervision, the department of Mission Shakti is now focusing hard on expanding the scope of activities of these collectives by offering them new opportunities.
Recently Mission Shakti, in convergence with State Urban Development Authority (SUDA), decided to set up three state-of-the-art pickle manufacturing units at Baripada, Berhampur and Dhenkanal to cater to the needs of the Aahaar centers across the state. These units will be run by select women SHGs.
Mission Shakti and the women collectives supported by it, not to mention Karthikeyan herself, have drawn much praise from different quarters for all the good work happening on the women’s empowerment front in Odisha these days. While these SHGs have become extremely popular, they have also been contributing to the economic development of the state significantly. However, more than anything else, they have given women from poor and underprivileged backgrounds dignity and self-respect by making them financially independent.
At a recently held high-level review meeting, chief secretary Suresh Mahapatra advised the Mission Shakti department to explore new areas of partnership involving more self-help groups. Some of the suggested areas for partnership are micro food processing, primary health care, pisciculture in panchayat tanks, poultry, commercial vegetable cultivation, nursery raising in forest and environment department, agri-entrepreneurship, supply of food items and vegetables to Ashram Vidyalayas and supervision of water supply through pipe water supply schemes and management of the nature camps.
While the Mission Shakti department is likely to get in touch with the power distribution companies to discuss the possibility of engaging more WSHGs in the job of meter reading and bill collection, a Mission Shakti Bazaar is likely to be set up in the campus of the State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) to create a round-the-year sales point for WSHG products.
Even as these SHGs script new success stories, their members across the state have been singing high praises of Karthikeyan for helping them get the opportunity to realize their true potential as entrepreneurs and contribute meaningfully to the society while ensuring their own financial independence.
Having proven her mettle as one of Odisha’s best bureaucrats, Karthikeyan richly deserves all of it.