Priscilla Nirmalakumari Daniel has been creating sustainable and effective leadership in women’s groups around Chennai. Through the Society for Upliftment of the Economically Backward (SUEB), she has created financial and social mobility for women to move and remain out of the cycle of poverty.
Priscilla began her experiment using self-help groups to address women’s leadership in rural Tamil Nadu. In her first income generation project, she proposed a trickle-up program where women’s groups received a small amount of money, which they were encouraged to circulate among themselves. However, she soon realized that groups were not effectively using this money, and that further scaffolding of social education and training was required for the model to be successful. Thus, Priscilla devised a comprehensive program, SUEB, to address not just the economic, but the behavioural dimensions to income generation programs, particularly from the angle of empowering women leaders in the community. Encompassing financial, personality and family development, Priscilla worked to create non-monetary incentives for women to take on leadership roles; making leadership itself the end-goal.
This model has been acknowledged by the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD), which has rolled out schemes to popularize Self-Help Groups across Tamil Nadu. Furthermore, Priscilla’s organisation started growing, both in depth and in numbers, and more branches were launched in different parts of Tamil Nadu. As of date, SUEB has mobilised 16,000 women in 162 villages into 1109 grass root organisations. Nearly 7000 women have undergone empowerment, leadership and skill training. Additionally, SUEB has expanded its range of services for rural women, introducing alternative crops and creating training programs to address issues with livestock and fodder, running a Technical school for vocational training, creating a school support program to enhance the quality of education in Panchayat schools, and opening a low-cost tution centre to supplement the education in these schools. She has also expanded SUEB’s operations to Maharashtra, now working in Kolhapur and Sindhudurg districts, and is looking to introduce her interventions in the tribal areas of Tamil Nadu.
Note: This was updated in July, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile.