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Subhalaxmi Cooperative – A movement of women empowerment in Odisha



Supported by Vedanta Jharsuguda, India’s largest producer of aluminium and value-added aluminium products, Rupsi Meher, a housewife from Kelendamal in Jharsuguda, Odisha scripted her own success story.

 When Rupsi first heard about Subhalaxmi Cooperative, her family barely managed to make ends meet but her biggest worry then was not being able to send her two kids to school.  Looking for avenues to augment her family’s income, she enrolled herself in a self-help group (SHG) called Maa Laxmi, which operated under the broad umbrella of Subhalaxmi Cooperative. What started as a reluctant induction, kick-started Rupsi Meher’s empowering journey towards becoming an entrepreneurial success story in the region. Today, she is leading a group of other such empowered women to realise their dreams of being self-reliant, through a unique avenue – mushroom cultivation.

Rupsi Meher

Rupsi’s venture today has touched new heights. With more than 400 mushroom beds, her unit produces over 600-650 kgs of mushroom every single day and around 15000-18000 kgs of mushroom in a month. The stellar numbers are a result of her hard work and Subhalaxmi’s interventions in the community. Subhalaxmi Cooperative’s mushroom cultivation training provided Rupsi with the right resources and knowledge to begin her venture. Today, she is earning more than Rs. 90,000 per month. Apart from changing her own destiny, she has successfully provided employment to five other people from her village.

Speaking on her entrepreneurial journey, Rupsi Meher says, “A few years back, I would have not even imagined that I would be providing employment to others, leave alone for my family, and send my kids to school. Today, I am not only financially independent, but I am also leading a group of women under Maa Laxmi SHG. I am grateful for the immense support that I have received from Vedanta. I hope to inspire other women in my village to start their own entrepreneurial journeys.”

Rupsi Meher’s story is one of the many success stories that have emerged from Subhalaxmi Co-operative – Vedanta’s marquee project in sustainable livelihood and women empowerment at Jharsuguda. It is one of India’s largest women cooperatives with a membership base of more than 4,100 women and promotes sustainable livelihood opportunities among rural women, creating avenues for entrepreneurship through skill development and microfinance support. Owned, managed and controlled by women members, Subhalaxmi Co-operative has been extending sustainable livelihood opportunities to its members through various training and capacity building programmes for skill enhancement of women on various farming and non-farming activities. At the core of it, the Cooperative’s services delivery model has four basic components: Capacity Building & Livelihood Promotion, Financial services (saving, credit & insurance), Social development, and Collaboration and partnership.

Speaking on the success of the Subhalaxmi Project, Vedanta Limited, Jharsuguda CEO Sunil Gupta says, “Vedanta has always tried its best to catalyze positive transformation in the lives of communities residing in the periphery of its operations. Subhalaxmi members have made us proud by paving their path towards self-reliance; and Vedanta is proud to be an enabler of women empowerment in the region. I hope to see more spirited entrepreneurs like Ms. Rupsi Meher emerged from within the community, with the support of our initiatives.”

Subhalaxmi Cooperative has emerged as one of the model community-based organizations in Jharsuguda, designed to create a landmark for the underprivileged women of the locality in uplifting their socio-economic conditions and ensuring the livelihood security of their families. What started with a corpus of Rs. 1,000 is now one of the largest women-cooperative of the country with 4,100-plus women in 339 SHGs, where loans amounting to more than Rs. 31.35 lakh have been given to more than 16,900 members till date. It is worth noting that 83 per cent of the loans have been availed for microenterprises and hence, more than 1,361 women micro-entrepreneurs have emerged from the co-operative, who are engaged in various farm & non-farm activities (tailoring, agriculture, fabrication, paper plate & cup making, animal husbandry, etc). The initiative currently reaches out to 73 villages.

Subhalaxmi Cooperative’s Mahila Kalyan Panthi (women welfare fund) initiative has been looking after the financial needs of its women members by disbursing more than Rs. 22.82 lakh till date as one-time cash grants for meritorious students, expecting mothers, funeral support and loan waivers among 1034 beneficiaries till date. Walking the talk on being self-reliant, the co-operative has conducted various livelihood training and capacity building programs for more than 1900 members. Today, the co-operative members have generated cumulative savings of Rs. 1.82 crore from a total fund of Rs. 3.53 crore. As per a study conducted by Taru Pvt. Ltd., an independent research agency, 94.7 per cent of those surveyed in the intervention areas said that they were positively impacted by Subhalaxmi Co-operative.

This inspiring women-led movement has won its fair share of accolades, with various national and international awards over the last few years. In 2021, it won the prestigious BRICS solution for SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) award for Gender Equality – its first international award. This apart, the Co-operative has won various coveted awards like the FICCI CSR Award in 2021 in the ‘Women Empowerment’ category, the Apex India CSR Excellence Award in 2019, Kalinga Award by Institute of Environment & Quality Management Systems in 2017, and was also identified and awarded as one of the change agents of Odisha by the organisation ‘Yes We Can’.  Vedanta’s social interventions in the domains of sustainable livelihood, quality education, women empowerment, health, water and sanitation, bio-investment and community infrastructure reach out to a total of 72 villages in Jharsuguda and nearby areas, benefiting nearly 80,000 people in a year. It empowers more than 4000 women from over 339 SHGs, provides doorstep healthcare services to about 32,000 people annually, and offers educational support to over 6,400 students. It has also planted more than 1.48 lakh trees in partnership with locals at the community level.

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