Partner in Focus: READ

READ Director Manjulata Sahu (left) meets with members of a Self Help Group established by the project. © All We Can/Catherine Rennie

READ (Rural Education Activities for Development) has been an All We Can partner since 2007. The project works with women in one of the poorest states in India, Odisha, to overcome the challenges of poverty and discrimination.

READ empowers women by helping to set up Self-Help Groups (SHG) where they can become better educated, aware of their rights, and capable of launching sustainable small business enterprises. This enables them to provide for their families and gain more control over their lives.

Overcoming hardship

The Subarna Self-Help Group (SHG) is made up of ten members from the village Kalyanpur in Odisha. The group are from the Saura tribal community and live below the poverty line. Bernadita Sabara, President of the SHG says: “Our families struggled to manage to meet basic needs like food, medicine, children’s education and house repair work.”

The people in this village are illiterate and they depend upon temporary jobs, such as construction work and agricultural labour to provide for their families, which are hard to come by. However, things have changed for this village since READ helped them form a SHG in 2007.

Claiming rights and opportunities

Bernadita says “We started a regular group savings contribution and with the start-up support of READ, we strengthened the inter-lending system in our group. Now, whenever we need some money we don’t have to get money from money lenders or landlords but we can borrow from our SHG with minimal interest.

We also received support from READ for income generation and started brick making. We have made 20,000 bricks and hope to make a profit of Rs. 25000 (approximately £250) from this. Not only are we undertaking economic activities, but we have also learned how to speak in the group, share our problems, meet with the government officers and demand for our rights and opportunities. READ provides us with regular guidance and support, and is helping us become self-sufficient”.

The Subarna SHG provides a great example of the impact READ is having in poor and marginalised communities in India.