Roshan and the Women’s Self-Help Group


By: Lindsey Cawood

Roshan Madra was married at the age of 17. Like most Indian women, Madra then moved into her in-laws’ house, sharing their two-bedroom hut. The hut was so small that fitting the newlywed couple proved impossible; consequently, Madra and her mother-in-law slept in the home while Madra’s husband, father-in-law, and brother slept outside, using a tarp to help keep them dry during monsoon season.

For the first three years of marriage, Madra stayed home as a housewife, as her in-laws forbade her to work. Her husband earned an income performing manual labor, while her in-laws were employed as snake charmers. In 2004, after their third year of marriage, the couple was visited by a CRHP Village Health Worker (VHW) who convinced the family that Madra should be working (1). Lacking the necessary skills to obtain an income, the VHW suggested Madra attend CRHP’s Women’s Self-Help Group (WSHG) (2), a program that teaches women how to gain financial independence. There she was introduced to Dr. Raj Arole, one of the founders of CRHP, who helped her procure a USD50 loan from Central Bank of India. With the funds, Madra and her husband bought scales and other equipment to start a recycling business (3). They retrieved plastics and other reusable materials from people’s homes and resold them to corporations in Mumbai.

Madra continued attending the WSHG sessions, during which the group began brainstorming new ways to increase its earnings. In 2006, the group’s ten members were able to procure a $4,636 bank loan, only $3,311 of which was required to be repaid. The group initially spent $828 on a tea stand (4). They later made business additions, adding chairs, tables, and other beverages for sale. The WSHG also spent $2,483 on a rationing shop that purchases grains from the government at a subsidized price and resells them for profit. In the shop’s first month, the women earned $132 in revenue and $33 in profit. The group also began to sell the empty grain sacks, making another $50 per month profit. After one year, each member of the WSHG received $165. Madra’s share was spent on her daughter’s wedding (5).

Madra is now a CRHP employee. Combined with her husband’s salary as a mason and the profit from the two businesses, Madra and her husband now earn $149 per month. Madra has learned the value of saving money and even has her own bank account.

The WSHG has now saved a total of $1,655—a large sum in Jamkhed, India and enough to provide loans to its members in times of need. Consequently, Madra and her fellow group members are unlikely to have to rely on banks for their future endeavors.

From the Women’s Self-Help Group, Madra also learned of a government housing scheme that provides assistance for low-income individuals to build homes. Madra applied and received $463 to build a new two-bedroom house.

Aside from her new house, two businesses, and financial know-how, the WSHG has impacted Madra’s life in another meaningful way. The WSHG has not only changed the economic climate of Jamkhed, but the social one as well. Madra explains, “before [the WSHG], the women would always fight with each other. Now, everyone gets along,” a benefit that no one can put a price on.


1. Working – In India, only 25% of females work outside the home, compared to 52% of males. (

2. Women’s Self-Help Group- the Self-Help Groups are cohorts of 12-20 women that aim toward developing economic security through participation in micro-finance initiatives. These groups also provide a forum for women to learn and discuss health and social issues such as alcoholism and gender equality.

3. Recycling Business– Recyclers in India are known as ‘ragpickers.’ They may collect items by going door-to-door or rifling through garbage dumps to find plastics, metals, glass, and other valuable materials for sale. The ragpickers perform a vital service to a country that generally lacks standardized trash collection services. In New Delhi, 300,000 ragpickers help manage the trash produced by the 95% of the capital that acks door-to-door trash disposal services. (

4. Tea Stand– Tea is the national drink of India. Chai, made from black tea, is normally served at least twice per day in Indian homes. Chai is also commonly given to guests. In Indian culture, the sweetness of the tea is a reflection of the homeowner’s hospitality: the sweeter the tea, the more the host enjoys the guests. Not surprisingly, the tea is usually very sweet!

5. Daughter’s Wedding– In India, weddings can be very expensive events that last for days. Typically, marriages involve entire communities in the celebrations, not just selected guests. One more thing you may not know is that India’s divorce rate hovers at around 1% (


1. Donate to CRHP! Please be sure to write “Unheard Voices” in the notes section!

2. See more photos of Madra!

3. Write to Madra! Send your email to or write to her at CRHP, c/o Roshan Madra, Jamkhed, Dist. Ahmednagar, Maharashtra 413 201, India

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