Brand Myki showcases empowerment, success of self help groups as eco model

(Left) A Self Help Group meeting in progress in Kohima district and (Right) turmeric powder sold under the brand Myki by the Department of Women Development.
For quite sometime now, the Department of Women Development with their ‘Transformative Livelihood Intervention Project’, has been marketing food and fruit products under the brand name ‘Myki.’ Going back to a few years, the government, realizing that more emphasis is needed for upliftment of women and to facilitate their active involvement in mainstream developmental activities of the state, created the Department of Women Development during the year 2003-2004. Besides providing support services and safeguarding their legal rights, one of the primary focuses of the Department is to address the issue of empowerment of women in Nagaland through their socio-economic upliftment.
 Recognizing that Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are a potential medium to empower women, particularly the marginalized sections, the Department took up, among other programmes, the SHG movement as one of its core activities. This project titled ‘Transformative Livelihood Intervention’ (TLI) was launched in 2006 and aims at enabling women in the State to achieve upward social and economic mobility as well as power and status. An integral component of the project is to network the SHGs into federations, which would be autonomous and self-sustaining and would provide a powerful platform, enabling women to become equal partners in the development process, as well as to aid them in removing inequalities, discriminations, exploitations etc.
In its pilot phase, the project covered 22 villages forming 65 SHGs in Kohima district. Now in full operation, the project has covered 9 districts with the formation of around 900 SHGs, 128 Village Units and 9 TLI Divisional Societies (federations). It envisages covering the remaining two districts by the next calendar year to achieve its target of formation of 1000 women SHGs.
 Talking to The Morung Express, Vilone Sakhrie, Asst. Director, says that initially the department collaborated with an NGO called ‘Naandi Foundation’ from Hyderabad to implement the TLI project. A core team comprising representatives/experts from various government departments and agencies was then set up to give proper direction and advice to the project. To implement the project, villages are selected according to their accessibility, population, cropping practices and other factors. Community mobilizes are then recruited, trained and embedded in each village covered under the project to form, train and handhold the SHGs till they are mature enough to stand on their own. The SHGs are encouraged to try their hands at micro-enterprises, banking, micro-credit, agriculture/horticulture, animal husbandry, fruit and vegetable processing, and other income generating activities.
 As part of the SHG programme, another venture called the Integrated Cluster Development Project, which is being implemented alongside the TLI Project in partnership with Naandi Foundation and financed by NABARD, is bringing in substantial benefits particularly in the agriculture/horticulture section.
The department, with contribution from line departments, would distribute seeds to the TLI SHGs free of cost and buy back their harvest. The produces are then sent to common service centers, which have been constructed at Jalukie and Medziphema, and mini processing units have been installed. After having received training in food processing at the Orissa University of Agricultural Technology, Bhubaneswar and at DABUR, Siliguri, TLI Project Team members have in turn imparted training in this technology to the SHGs. 
Now, the fruits and vegetables are being processed and packaged by our women themselves and the finished products are then sold under the brand name ‘Myki’. Sakhrie says that the interesting name has a double meaning and was decided on after much thought; The name obviously means ‘women or girl’ in ‘Nagmese; the ‘ki’ also is a common word for all Nagas meaning ‘home or house’. The second meaning of the word is therefore ‘my house’ or ‘my home’.
 Turmeric powder or ‘haldi’ being sold under the brand ‘Myki’ has particularly gained popularity outside the State owing to its rich, unadulterated natural flavor. The ‘Myki’ products, which also include osmo-dehydrated pineapples, gooseberry, wild apple and popped rice, are currently available at Star Mart, Jail Colony, Kohima. According to officials of the department, they will be made available in other outlets very soon even in other parts of the State.
 The impact of the project has so far been very positive and progressive. What is really encouraging is the 100% loan recovery from every SHG and village unit that availed the corpus fund which has been set up through the department where SHGs or individual members can avail loans to start any income generating activity. The corpus, which is a revolving fund, is sanctioned free of interest to TLI divisional societies who loan it to their village units at minimal annual interest rates. The village units in turn loan it to the TLI SHGs at slightly higher rates. This fund has enabled many SHGs to start small scale businesses. The success of the project can be testified in the attitudes of the beneficiaries who are now confident and also very encouraged to venture out to other fields. Products of TLI SHGs, which also include handcrafted and woven products, have already done their rounds within the state and at the national level, especially during the various road shows and other government sponsored expos.
Says the Asst. Director, Sakhrie: “We are now experimenting with textile and designing with the aim to promote new and innovative Naga motifs, materials and attires which would be woven and designed with modern machinery and technology, while preserving the traditional ones. Through this, we also hope to provide another alternative means of livelihood to rural women by encouraging them to take up sericulture in a large scale so as to feed our production centres with raw silk once the project is fully in place. However, being laymen ourselves in this area, we are trying to rope in all possible expert assistance from related departments, agencies and individuals to carry this new project forward”, the young officer informs.