Destination Goa

April 2, 2009
By Rang De Team

If you thought Goa is renowned for its beaches, get a load of this! Agassaim in Northwest Goa, is famous for its sausages. We also found out about Sapna and 60 incredible women who belong to self help groups.

Rang De co founder Smita announced that she was off on a business visit to Goa, to identify likely field partners for the rural community of borrowers from the state. All of us who heard about it discounted it as a pleasure trip and looked the other way. However, it did turn out to be a pleasurable business trip after all, like Smita found out.

If ever there is an enterprising, non Harvard educated go- getter, then it has to be Sapna from Agassaim.

Inimitable Sapna. She lives in a house on top of a small hill about 40 km from Agassaim. On hindsight, Smita would not have hesitated to travel hundreds of kilometers and climb mountains to meet this awe-inspiring woman. Sapna has been single handedly responsible for forming close to 150 SHGs in villages around Agassaim.

When you chance upon her the first time, you would not get the impression that she belonged to a SHG herself. Sapna runs a profitable ‘snack and savory’ business unit and sources it to a little store that sells her products. Only when she begins to tell you her story, you begin to understand the magnitude of what she has achieved.

Ten years back, Sapna helped an NGO set up the first few SHGs in Agassaim. Primarily, the groups then formed, were trained by the NGO and provided initial support to get started. For the past ten years, the SHG’s have grown and added many more and are now thriving without a hitch. What more, without an NGO overseeing them.

Sapna and a group of women from the first formed SHGs, help other women in Agassaim and surrounding villages form self help groups that can work together. She invited us to a weekly meeting of two groups that were meeting the day we were there. We went to a group meeting of two distinctly dissimilar groups that co-exist and support each other.

The women in the group were classified into two — The Above Poverty Line (APL) and The Below Poverty Line (BPL). We learnt that the women in the APL group ran flourishing businesses like handicrafts and condiments and were linked to markets that sold their products and therefore had easier access to micro loans from the banks. On the contrary, the women from the other group (BPL) were lucky if they qualified for a group loan from the same banks.

When we checked with Sapna if she and her group were willing to identify a field partner who could then work with us to reach out to social investors, they firmly disagreed that there would be any need to look beyond them. Sapna volunteered to be trained and qualified to be a field partner and expressed the desire to be the face of the amazing women of Agassaim.

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