The Timbaktu Collective recognized the need for sustainable alternative economic institutions for women. With an understanding of the vulnerabilities of the underprivileged, rural women, a community-based savings program was initiated in 1992 engaging ten villages around Chennekothapalli. The Collective encouraged the formation of women-only thrift groups, in which an initial 30 members regularly deposited savings of Rs. 10 per month. From this collective savings fund, members were able to take loans with low-interest repayment schedules.
Over the years, this thrift and credit program has spread to 168 villages in four mandals. Four Mutually Aided Thrift Cooperative Societies (MATCS), run and controlled by women, have been established in as many mandal.
Registered as an autonomous body in 2008, Mahasakthi, a federation of Cooperatives promotes the principles of self help and collective ownership through the creation of viable, relevant and sustainable banking institutions. While initially recognised only as alternative banks for women, the federation has gradually evolved to grow into a vibrant movement for women’s empowerment.
Mahasakthi has made significant contributions to the economic self-reliance of its members.
Membership to the mandal level Cooperatives has provided women the opportunity to increase their asset base, improve their credit worth and generate further employment and income. Women regularly report significant benefits, as they have been able to utilise loans to improve the livelihood of their agricultural ventures, develop and grow small-scale businesses, allow their children to access education and health care, and improve the health and general wellbeing of themselves and their families.
Adisakthi Cooperative – Chennekothapalli
In the most severely drought affected area of Anantapur District, Adisakthi Cooperative was the first alternative banking Cooperative to be set up in 1994 and later registered in 1998 under the MACS Act of Andhra Pradesh. A brave pioneer, Adisakthi went through a period of trial, error and reform. Eventually it found deep roots in the soil of Chennekothapalli. In due course, Adisakthi provided an effective model for the other three Cooperatives that were to follow.
Adisakthi recognises the transformative power of Cooperative movements and has actively promoted and mentored other projects such as the Bhavani Weaving Centre, a Dalit Sangha and the Dharani Organic Farming and Marketing Cooperative. As of 31st March, 2015, Adisakthi had 5,953 members from 213 sanghas in 44 villages.
Ananthasakthi Cooperative – Roddam
The Ananthasakthi Cooperative was initiated in 1995 and registered in 1999. Located on the border of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, this Cooperative is in the isolated mandal of Roddam. Due to its remote location, developments in the areas of women’s rights and empowerment were slow to reach the mandal.
The Cooperative has actively worked against domestic violence among community members by promoting the use of Anathasakthi’s legal aid counseling centre for dispute resolution.
The Ananthasakthi office is situated in the midst of a tranquil mango grove and is easily accessible by members and workers. As on 31st March, 2015, Ananthasakthi Cooperative has 4,973 members from 166 groups in 55 villages.
Mahilasakthi Cooperative – Ramagiri
The Mahilasakthi Cooperative was initiated in 1999 and registered in 2001. Prior to the establishment of Mahilasakthi, the mandal of Ramagiri was underdeveloped and barely and had any visitors. Neither government nor non-government organizations provided support to the area. The mandal was extremely drought affected, socially and economically disadvantaged and a hotspot for extremist and feudal political activity. Women faced high levels of oppression within their families and communities.
With the aim to mobilise the women in this area, the Directors of Mahilsakthi invested large amounts of time and energy into creating a solid leadership committee at the sangha level. From this strong base of sangha leaders, the number of members increased. Of the four cooperatives, Mahilasakthi is the fastest growing Cooperative.
As of 31st March, 2015, Mahilasakthi Cooperative had a member base of 4,762 women from 162 groups in 36 villages.
Durgasakthi Cooperative – Penukonda
The Durgasakthi Cooperative is located in Penukonda mandal. It joined the Mahasakthi Federation in 2011. Members received a substantial amount of training in organisational processes and thus were able to quickly get involved in its operations.
So far the Durgasakthi Cooperative retains an excellent repayment history, with no member faulting their loans. As of 31st March, 2015, the Cooperative had 2,952 members in 33 villages.