The State Government is constantly striving to ensure holistic and inclusive development of the state and to make women self-reliant. The state government has taken various innovative initiatives to make rural women economically competent by constituting self-help groups for their development, which has provided them a new direction towards becoming self-reliant.
As of now 24500 self-help groups have been formed under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) in the state. With a view to recognizing the quality products made by women associated with these groups globally and nationally, Himachal Pradesh State Rural Livelihoods Mission has registered the ‘Him Ira’ brand and logo in the financial year 2019-20. All the self-help groups are now selling their products under this brand. In order to popularize the Him Ira brand, Himachal Pradesh State Rural Livelihoods Mission is also setting up Him Ira shops and weekly markets in the state.
Through this brand, good quality products were made available to people at low prices. The products manufactured by self-help groups from the Him Ira brand are gaining a distinct identity on a wider scale. Him Ira shops and weekly markets are proving to be a milestone in making markets available for the products of Mahila Mandals. Through this initiative, women in self-help groups (SHGs) were provided space in the Gram Panchayat for the sale of their products. In addition, a weekly market is also organized at the segment level, in which women of the groups can sell their products directly to the people.
The main objective of the Him Ira shops and weekly market is to provide a platform to the women of the SHG to sell their products so that they can be financially strengthened. With this effort, along with strengthening the economy of women, local products are also being made available to the local people nearer to their homes at low price.
Him Ira shops and markets are proving helpful in providing markets to small and marginal farmers and SHGs for selling their organic products grown from natural farming without any intermediaries. It has been targeted to set up one hundred Him Ira shops in different parts of the state, under which one Him Ira shop would be set up in every Assembly Constituency. So far, Him Ira shops have been established in 46 locations of the state and locations have been identified for setting up shops in 71 different locations of the state which would provide a single platform for the sale of products to self-help groups. Till February 2021, sales of products worth Rs. One crore 20 lakh have been registered through Him Ira shops.
The Him Ira weekly markets have been set up either at office premises of development blocks or at any nearby available places. The weekly market was preferably set up at a place where self-help groups and local people can easily reach out to sell and buy their products. Currently, average sales of Rs. 15000 to Rs. 22500 per week have been recorded in these weekly markets from August 2020 to January 2021.
Self-help groups of women have also been launched a new initiative to prepare hygienic food for people in various departments, offices and canteen located in educational institutions and government offices. Under this, in the first phase, Department of Technical Education, Himachal Pradesh has agreed to provide free of cost space to self-help groups to set up Him Ira Kitchen in its 14 educational institutions. The selection and training of members to run these canteens have already been started.
The first canteen of Him Ira has been established in Arki ITI of Solan district. In future, Him Era Rasoi, to be run by members of self-help groups in other educational institutions and government departments, would be made functional in a well planned manner. Similarly, to provide quality, clean and homemade food to the people of state, an innovative Him Ira Annapurna Meals on Wheels has also been started. On 10th March, 2021 the Chief Minister has provided the first Him Ira Annapurna Meals on Wheels food van to members of self-help groups in Shimla. Both these important steps would provide rural women with sustainable livelihood opportunities.
These efforts of the state government are not only strengthening Vocal for Local Campaign but also a step towards realising Prime Minister’s dream of a self-reliant India.