In a bid to empower women in Odisha, the Naveen Patnaik government directed the district administrations to hand over unutilised state properties such as government buildings, shops, ponds to women self-help groups (SHGs) within two months.
“All such unused government property in the block, panchayat and district levels should be handed over to the local Mission Shakti SHGs within two months. Once these assets are under the control of women SHGs, these groups will manage the unused property for the betterment of the locals and society,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told the media.
According to the government, Mission Shakti (apex body of women SHGs) was launched in 2001 with the objective of organising women into SHGs for holistic empowerment and targeted livelihood activities. There are over 6 lakh SHGs in Odisha under Mission Shakti with 70 lakh members at present.
These SHGs take loans from banks and provide small non-agricultural loans to their members at a high-interest rate, make packaged ready-to-eat fortified food for children in Anganwadi centres and look after the mid-day meal schemes of state's schools.
“The move to give more work to the SHGs would definitely add to their confidence and provide more money in their hands. It’s a concrete step towards women empowerment and in line with chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s faith in women of Odisha carving a separate niche in the society,” said Pratap Deb, BJD spokesman.
Last year Patnaik had announced that his government cleared a proposal for a separate Mission Shakti department that would exclusively work for around 70 lakh rural women associated with the SHGs created under the Mission Shakti movement. This made Odisha to be the first state ever to have an exclusive self-help department for women. The government had also tied up with e-commerce platforms Amazon and Flipkart to help the SHG members gain access to a bigger market.
In May 2019, the Odisha government had approved the provisioning of services and goods for different government departments through Mission Shakti, which would provide direct business worth Rs 1,000 crore to the SHGs every year.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)