Project Sakhi: Manjari Foundation towards Women Empowerment

By auther pic. Shilpa Tiwari

February 2, 2021

Project Sakhi: Manjari Foundation towards Women Empowerment

Manjari Foundation

Who would have thought that apparently frail women from rural backgrounds would be a part of a mission of a budding social enterprise that resolves to promote women’s institutions? These bustling centres of social justice and equality have led innumerable women from marginalised communities in various districts of Rajasthan towards rural transformation. Not everyone is oriented towards visualising an equitable society that can sustain continuous transformation of women’s lives. Keeping this in view, Manjari Foundation was started with this passion for transforming the condition of women.

Manjari Foundation, evidently works across the poverty-stricken areas of Rajasthan (Ajmer, Baran, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Dholpur, Jaisalmer, Rajsamand, Udaipur districts), Madhya Pradesh (Datia and Tikamgarh districts), Uttar Pradesh (Hardoi district) and Uttarakhand(Udham Singh Nagar district). Interestingly, foreign collaborations of Manjari extends to West African countries of Senegal and Mali. 

Four years back, the vision of the foundation was enhanced when it implemented Project Sakhi. Sakhi is a flagship women empowerment program supported by Hindustan Zinc Limited as a part of their CSR initiative. The Project has been a feather in the cap of Manjari Foundation, ever since 2016. Capacity Building, Financial Inclusion, Livelihood Creation and Microenterprise management are the core themes which are being covered under this initiative and the number of beneficiaries. 

Sakhi project that is being implemented in the two states of Rajasthan and Uttarakhand has covered six districts of Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Ajmer, Rajsamand, Udham Singh Nagar, covering 195 villages, 2232 Self Help Groups (SHGs) have impacted close to 27,245 women beneficiaries. The functionality of this Project has resulted in six federations and 194 village organisations that are working towards the benefit of these women. The project has a goal to form 2300 Self Help Groups reaching out 27500 families in 5 years.

As a part of this project, Asha Devi Balai, age 27, wife of Satyanarayan Balai is a resident of Sultanpura village in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan, hailing from the community listed as Schedule Caste. She got married to Satyanaryana, a worker in Hindustan Zinc Ltd., at an age of 18. Her marriage had apparently brought an end to her pursuit of higher studies after 12th standard. 

However, after much requests and cajoling, she was allowed to pursue her graduation. She says, “I was a hesitant personality when I got married. Confidence was all time low. Nobody is village knew me, as I was confined to my house. I wasn’t allowed to socialize with other women of the village. I had no identity”. However, with the intervention of Manjari Foundation’s collaborated efforts with the Sakhi Project, originally a Hindustan Zinc Limit, CSR initiative, in their area in 2016, Asha reached her potential and showed her strength of being a good community leader too. Asha is now a mother of two male children, age 6 and 3, both of them are studying in 2nd and primary standards in the nearby government school. 

The year 2016 brought in Project Sakhi at the doorstep of many beneficiaries like Asha Devi. Intervention in 27 villages in Bhilwara district have been covered under this initiative. Asha is one such beneficiary who became a member of “Veer Teja Ji Self Help Group (SHG)”. “Sakhi” project helped hone her skills by providing her exposures to several meetings, trainings and grooming. Apart from this, owing to her acumen, she was assigned the task of looking after the book keeping part of the SHG. She took the responsibility and excelled in the task of bookkeeping. This enhanced the level of trust of the community members and she was later elected as VO (Village Organization) representative. She took the initiative of starting the food bank in her village and several destitute got benefitted with her initiatives. She even took loans from SHG’s whose cumulative amount comes to INR 60K. She supported her family with the loan amount. 

Her leadership qualities were more than evident with her active involvement in addressing the social issues and finally when the “Sakhi Udaan Federation” came into existence, she was nominated as the president of the Federation. She gave her blood and sweat for several social work after getting selected as president. Crisis defines the underlying personality attributes and her leadership traits emerged again, which got witnessed with her involvement in several social activities during the pandemic phase. She led several relief campaigns during crisis which emerged with the COVID pandemic. From crafting the masks to distribution of ration kits, from preparing the kadha (a herbal immunity booster) to its distribution, from blood donation camp to supporting destitute amongst crisis, her involvement in every social movement made her so popular that the women of women-led institutions approached her and insisted her to contest in the Gram Panchayat Elections. She was nominated for the post of Sarpanch for Badla Gram Panchayat. History repeated itself in her favor! She won in the elections held in the month of October 2020 with a margin of 377 votes. Imagine the plight now. A person becomes a Sarpanch of the village which is his birthplace as well and she will be representing 6 villages now. It’s inspiring! Isn’t it?? Life of Asha has drastically changed!

Asha Devi’s success is Sakhi Project’s success too, where many like her have benefitted and grown to show the community that women are not just restricted to the traditional chulha-chowki only. An empowered woman automatically empowers the entire community. “I have witnessed a transformation from a “hesitant” version to an “empowered” version of mine. I got into Sakhi thinking that it will support me financially with the savings and loan aspects but I ended up discovering something much bigger. I ended up discovering a leader in me.” 

“I never aspired to be a leader. I never thought in this regard. But Sakhi helped me in realizing my hidden potential. I worked with utmost sincerity and dedication backed up by the guidance and learnings which I received from Sakhi endeavours and people of my area made me a leader. I am enjoying a state; “I- Lead” state now. With this position, my responsibilities as a person has enhanced by several folds and I am committed to deliver, speaks a proud Asha Devi.”

Manjari Foundation, therefore, is not just about improving many like Asha but also sees hope in the youth of the villages. Awarded prestigiously in the past three years, the accolades include the Grant Thornton SABERA 2019 award. More so, it bagged the “Best CSR initiative for women at the platform - ASSOCHAM4India. Plus, the CSR Excellence Award 2018 under Women Empowerment Category was also given to Sakhi Project apart from CSR leadership award 2018. Another award that was received by the project in the same year was Danik Jagran CSR Award.

Manjari Foundation is trying to address several socio-economic challenges which are aligned with Sustainable Development Goals(SDG’s). Team Manjari has adopted the multi-dimensional poverty elimination strategy where focus is on holistic development through intervening in Livelihoods (Farm and Non-Farm), Integrated Natural Resource Management, Microenterprises Development, Education, Youth Development, gender, nutrition and community health. MF has the partnership with Tata Trusts, Hindustan Zinc Ltd., HDFC Bank, UN WOMEN, Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative, PRADAN, Centre for Microfinance, IPE Global, KnH- Germany, HCL Foundation, Government of Rajasthan, Google India, International Center for Research on Women DC, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Oxford University and others. MF also extended themselves in West Africa Mali and Senegal where they have replicated the Indian Self Help Groups Model in association with CAMIDE, a development organisation based out of Mali, West Africa.  

If the story resonates with you, please share

Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at shilpi@csrbox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage.

Also Read: Manjari Foundation: Sowing Seeds of Strength to Empower Rural Women


Shilpa Tiwari is a New Delhi based Content Specialist with three decades of experience. She has worked extensively on a variety of researches and curricula across K12, Higher Education, Corporate and Social Development sectors. A Master’s degree in English Literature and a degree in French from Delhi University, alongwith International Business Programme from IIFT, most certainly provides Shilpa an added expertise to work as a Consultant on various research and consulting projects with Corporates, Educational Institutions, Publications, CSR Foundations and NGOs.


Suggest a Story: If you have similar story to refer, please fill in the form