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India's Women's Self-Help Groups: An Overview



  Apr 25, 2024

India's Women's Self-Help Groups: An Overview



Self-help groups (SHGs) are a vital part of India’s strategy to enhance economic empowerment and social cohesion among women, particularly in rural areas. These groups function on the principle of collective action for development, providing their members with economic opportunities and a platform for social interaction. Here’s an overview tailored for beginners:

What is a Self-Help Group (SHG)?

An SHG is a voluntary group of typically 10-20 local women who pool their resources to become financially stable and self-reliant. The members of these groups contribute to a common fund which is used to extend loans among themselves.

How do SHGs operate?

SHGs operate on the principle of mutual benefit. Members save money collectively and lend within their group at minimal interest rates. The process helps them build financial discipline and creditworthiness. Over time, SHGs can access larger loans from banks for various economic activities ranging from agriculture to small-scale businesses.

What are the benefits of SHGs for women?

1. Economic Empowerment: By pooling savings and accessing credit, women can start or expand businesses, leading to increased incomes.

2. Skill Development: Many SHGs provide training programs in areas like handicrafts, tailoring, and other vocations.

3. Social Empowerment: SHGs encourage active participation and leadership among women, boosting their confidence and societal standing.

4. Access to Government Schemes: SHGs are often integrated with government programs, providing a conduit for benefits such as subsidies and grants.

Challenges faced by SHGs:

• Accessibility of Resources: Despite the success of many groups, some women, especially in isolated regions, report difficulties in accessing government schemes.

• Regular Income: Some SHGs struggle to generate a consistent income for all members, depending on the nature of their economic activities.

• Social Resistance: Women in some areas face societal pushback when participating in SHGs or engaging in public life.

Success Stories:

In many Indian villages, SHGs have transformed the lives of women. For instance, women from Jangethi village near Meerut have formed groups to create eco-friendly products like baskets and table mats. Similarly, women in other villages engage in traditional crafts such as stitching leather balls, passing down skills through generations.

Government Support:

The government has pledged to empower rural women further, aiming to increase the number of ‘Lakhpati Didis’ (women earning over one lakh rupees annually) significantly. The integration of SHGs with various welfare schemes, like the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana and others, ensures that benefits reach the grassroots level.

Understanding SHGs provides insight into how these small groups are making big changes in the socio-economic landscapes of their communities, offering not just financial but also social returns. As SHGs continue to evolve, they remain a crucial mechanism for women’s empowerment across India.
 

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