How Social Saheli is helping women SHGs in UP become community champions and earn an income
A number of self-help groups (SHGs) in Uttar Pradesh have benefitted from Social Saheli, an online platform that helps to train women, identify community champions, and assists them in marketing their products on social media.
Currently active as a pilot in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Social Saheli provides an ecosystem of skill-building, mentorship, storytelling and marketing to help SHG women get democratised access to social capital, and enable them to sell their products in a digital driven world. The Sahelis make products ranging from pickles, spices, bags, clothes, handicraft items, gifting items, dairy products, skin care, beauty products and more.
Social Saheli works with SHG groups across Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Lakhimpur and more districts. Till date, they have trained 115 women self-help group members across two districts in Uttar Pradesh.
“Women are playing a major role in the creation of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Socialsaheli.com is a project run by People Like Us Create (Pluc), where we use mobile storytelling to enable women SHGs to become financially independent. Their video episodes have generated over 3.3 million views. This has led to product enquiries, support from peers and mainstream media attention,” says Tamseel Hussain, Founder & CEO, Pluc and socialsaheli.com.
Three Sahelis tell HerStory how they changed the lives of others, while their own underwent a transformation for the better.
Vibha belongs to the gram sabha of Lolai, Lucknow and is a samooh sakhi of a self-help group called Lead India. She started off with a group of 12 women and started giving them training on how to make masks, and become independent.
As a single mother, Vibha’s first goal was to find a source of income.
“During the lockdown, PM Narendra Modi said that villages will get raw materials for free to make masks and get subsidies in return. I made three batches of 25 women each and trained them in making masks,” she says.
From the additional cloth, the women made school uniforms for the children of government schools thus ensuring their livelihood during the pandemic. They also work on making petticoats, blouses, and salwars with cloth purchased from the Aminabad market in Lucknow.
“We have also recently set up a village body of SHGs called India Prerna Mahila Gram Sangathan and am setting up two units – one to extract oil from sunflower seeds and groundouts, and also engaging the SHGs in the making of dalia, spices, multi-grain flour, etc,” she says.
These SHGs are giving hope to a large number of women – single, widowed to uplift the entire financial burden of their families.
“With Social Saheli I have learned the skills of mobile storytelling and social media to tell my story and take my products beyond the existing community,” she says.
The changemaker has previously helped rural women open bank accounts (Jan Dhan accounts), get Aadhar Cards and also facilitated establishing toilets in the local villages.
Tripta Sharma runs the Tripta Hina Kshetriya Samiti in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and has mobilised 55 self-help groups through it.
Tripta was wary of routine products like masala, papad, pickles, and daliya that other SHGs were making. Unafraid to take risks, she began a new venture - a line of beauty products. Her products were an immediate hit.
“I gathered 11 to form my first self-help group (SHG) and once it became functional, we were able to get a loan to form a packaging unit,” she says.
Tripti trains local women to work in the beauty industry, supports local beauty parlours, positions her products through those women and their salon.
The women make a variety of beauty packs using neem and Chandan (sandalwood), products to combat stretch marks, and herbal henna with shikakai.
In her marketing model, Tripta has experimented with many things. To tell the story of her business and reach new markets, she joined Social Saheli. Her first video was a hit among her community and on social business.
“I am connected with a cohort of Social Saheli mentors to expand my business and sell my products online,” she says.
A single woman, Shabana was the only support of her family during the lockdown following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Refusing to let circumstances hold her back, she started a self-help group called Riya SHG along with a few other women from her community. She started learning software programmes and began her journey with digital education.
Today her aim is to expand the horizons for other women like her.
“I mobilised women from economically weaker sections of the society to train them in sewing, and now we make party-wear and children’s dresses. We are well-known for our Lucknowi gharara,” she says.
When Shabana met the mentors of Social Saheli, she was looking for guidance on various steps to market her products. “I want to help women become entrepreneurs like me,” she adds.
Edited by Anju Narayanan