MUMBAI, AUGUST 25, 2008: The Mumbai Province has chosen the Self Help Groups sector as one of its focus areas for the present year. In keeping with this, 34 participants from 15 centres in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, gathered at Jungle Camp, Walwanda, for a five-day Training Workshop on SHGs, from August 18 to 22, conducted by the Development Office, Mumbai. The sessions, which followed the MYRADA pattern, were delivered by our staff members, Melvin Pangya and Dayanand Patil. The first step of the training was for the participants — right from those with years of experience to those who had joined work only a few days ago — to ‘unlearn’ many of their beliefs about Self Help Groups. Though a series of lively (and often heated!) discussions and activities, they began to see SHGs as tools for sanghatan and manthan rather than mere economic crutches. They also put their newly learned skills and techniques to the test by meeting SHGs in the nearby villages of Walwanda and Sadak Pada, and conducting sessions on the concept of SHGs and social analysis with these groups. Besides acquiring new information, the training programme also saw several participants discovering their own abilities, as they began to take the lead in group tasks and presentations. For those who were completely new to the field, the programme gave them their first chance to interact with women’s groups as well as with other staff members. On the other hand, some of our more experienced staff recognised the need to update and share their knowledge. A pleasant surprise was the discovery of some promising future trainers, as our staff members from Walwanda and Mokhada insisted on conducting some activities and did very well at them! In addition to thinking, learning and working, the participants also struck up friendships with those from other centres and states, and unanimously stated that they would like to attend more such programmes in future. Most important, the entire group began to understand that Self Help Groups are not an end in themselves but one of the first steps in organising people to demand their rights and secure their own development.