Ersama, 100 km from Bhubaneswar, in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha, was one of the worst hit by the Super Cyclone of 1999 that ravaged the state. With their livelihoods destroyed, thousands of people in the state sunk deeper into poverty.
For Bhagabati Maiti, 32, there seemed no hope. Six members of her family, including her parents, were washed away. “I was only 16 then. My whole family was wiped out in front of my eyes as I held on tightly to a tree,” she recalled.
Thereafter, began her lonely battle for survival. “Though we had formed a self-help group (SHG), getting jobs on a daily basis was difficult,” she said. Bhagabatti married a year after the cyclone and they have two children.
For Bhagabati and thousands of women in rural Odisha, the Odisha Rural Livelihoods Project or Tripti came as a ray of hope. With an aim to improve the socio-economic status of the poor, especially women and disadvantaged groups, the Project was launched in 2009 in 32 blocks in 10 coastal districts of Odisha.
Supported by a $70 million World Bank loan and implemented by the Odisha Poverty Reduction Mission, the Project was designed to improve livelihoods of deprived women by building and mobilizing community institutions, creating community investment funds, and providing specific livelihood funds.
“We analyzed the income level of each family in the village and divided them under different categories like good, average, poor and the destitute. Our primary aim was to bring the women in these families under our SHG fold,” said Pushpashree Nayak, a project coordinator.
Bhagabati too joined the movement and gained immensely through Tripti’s financial and technical assistance. “I took a loan from the SHG and bought some chicks. When I repaid it, I took a bigger amount with which I bought a few cows. Today, I have a hatchery and a dairy business and have also started growing crops. I’m extremely happy and I now dream of enrolling my two children in engineering or medical courses,” Bhagabati said, her voice choked with emotions.
And just like Bhagabati, Sulochana Maharana’s story of grit and determination is equally remarkable. A survivor of Cyclone Phailin in 2013, with the help and support of her peers in the SHG, Sulochana took a loan to set up her own little furniture workshop. “My mother joined the SHG three years ago. Since then her confidence has gone up and our financial situation has improved. Now I don’t have to worry for my further studies to achieve my aim of becoming a mechanical engineer,” said Bikas, Sulochana’s son with pride.