Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hirbai Ibrahim Lobi – Indigenous Social Entrepreneur

Hirbai Ibrahim Lobi – Indigenous Social Entrepreneur

Sep 2011 by Janhvi Johorey
Hirbai Ibrahim Lobi – Indigenous Social Entrepreneur
Hirbai Ibrahim Lobi from the Siddi community, is a rural entrepreneur whose vision, perseverance and leadership qualities have made her into a beacon of hope and inspiration for women worldwide. Hirbai isthe essence of woman power, a true woman of substance who has transformedthe lot of the illiterate, underfed and disempowered Siddi women of her community into a universally successful model of women’s entrepreneurship.
Hirbai was just another hapless girl of her community, who lost her mother at four, and father at 14. Illiteracy, unemployment, indebtedness and alcoholism were rampant among the menfolk, and women foraged and sold fuel wood from the nearby Gir forests for sustenance.
Her marriage to a landless man did not help matters much. Hirbai had inherited half a hectare from her father, on which she inherited a debt of about Rs 1 lakh. Like all others in the village, she too was under constant pressure to sell the land to clear the debt. This was the starting point in Hirbai’s mission to be different. Hirbai persuaded her husband to till the land, instead. By dint of sheer hard work and better farming, she managed to produce enough over the years to repay the debt and recycle for more. Today, Hirbai’s farm stands a shining testimony to her labour and foresight. Mango orchards,coconut trees, vegetablesand sugarcane crop adorn her land.

The land boasts of a well, too, with apump set, sprayer and other farm implements. Having reached a comfort zone in her private life, Hirbai’s next Support Programme (AKRSP), and the state, Hirbai started a day care centre for children and followed it up with a primary school. Cleaning the cobweb of superstition was another job she took on hand. “Jambhur village did not have a flour mill because people believed that it will invite the wrath of Peer Geban shah, whose mausoleum was in the village.” Hirbai narrated to us. (Siddis owe allegiance to Islam). It took her weeks of persuasion and scores of meetings to dispel the myth and open a mill.The most striking achievement of Hirbai is the promotion of the selfhelp groups (SHGs) among the women of her community that has led to their social and economic empowerment.
Starting with one group of women, which addressed health and hygiene issues, Hirbai flitted from locality to locality, village to village spreading the message of SHG.
Today, the effort has borne fruit with 95 women from six villagesin the vicinity having formed 12 such groups known as mahila vikas mandals (MVMs). Hirbai, for all her rustic simplicity, is no ordinary woman. Not resting on her laurels in social awakening, she showed that in entrepreneurial skills she was no less gifted. Hirbai knew that economic uplift was the key to social change. In 1999, with the backing of AKRSP, Hirbai started a project to manufacture organic manure. Involving the women from her own SHG, the Nagarchi MVM, Hirbai offered her farm precincts to make compost for the venture, and gave a guarantee that she would buy all the 200 bags, if unsold. Mid-day meal, tea and snacks were thrown in for the women workers. Today, the organic manure, which has been branded as “Panchatatva”, is a household name among farmers in the area, and brings in lakhs of rupees as turnover.
For all her achievements, Hirbai remains as modest as ever and is willing to share her experiences. She shows unbridled enthusiasm in taking visitors around her farm and the compost production unit. Hirbai today holds an iconic status in not only Junagadh but also most parts of Gujarat. Not a single women development programme or SHG initiative in Saurashtra takes off without her presence. A gifted orator with hands-on experience of women empowerment, she is never short of words at public functions. Here is a women of substance and a shining icon of success,whose livelihood initiatives for rural women are worthy of emulation everywhere.

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