by Prof. K.V. Satya Prakash* and E. Devasree Rao**
Self- Help Groups (SHGs), propounded in India by National Board for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) taking cue from the success of Bangladesh’s Gramin Bank experiment of Nobel Laureate Dr. Mohammud Yunus, seems to be catching up fast with the more and more women joining in as members apart from it providing opportunity to ladies to become self- reliant, self- employed and self- confident. Many researchers have dealt with women empowerment and SHGs but the ways as well as means they benefitted the women- folk were not dwelt in- depth by them and hence, an attempt has been made to understand the real gains accrued to the females through SHGs, which has been identified as STRATEGIC
Usually in India women were restricted to the homes as house- wives for in- door works such as taking care of children, house- hold chores like cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. and though many females are allowed to come out to study, work or to undertake outside activities hitherto done by men, these are still far from satisfactory considering the total population of the country as a whole. Unless, the ladies too contribute their mite depending on their talents, economic development of the Nation would be lopsided and hence the need to involve better- halfs too in the processes, which have got a boost after the introduction of SHGs as they have proven to be effective vehicles of progress and development.
The need for Women Empowerment (WE) and Self- Help Groups (SHGs) seem to have been thought almost at the same time. Both seem to mutually beneficial and aiding each other in the promotion of each other. While the females have adopted SHGs as their own and joining them in large numbers, SHGs too are providing an opportunity to the ladies to optimize their talents while exhibiting their inherent skills to the world. This these two seem to be made for each other as several possibilities, which were hither to not thought of are happening there by giving scope for more raising ambitions and aspirations. Some of the benefits that are clearly visible seem to have been occurred only due to this combination and they have been discussed at length in the following paragraphs to understand as well as bring out the real aspects that are inherent or found in this rare mutual co- existence, bonded strongly together.
After study and analysis of 1075 SHGs in the rural areas of Warangal District, some of the aspects that are brought out are shared here with to throw light on the rural women empowerment through SHGs:
- Signatures: It has been found that members of SHGs, mostly uneducated and were used to putting thumb impressions earlier were learning their names in local Telugu languages and practicing to sign, thereby slowly but steadily replacing with signatures after discontinuing practice of thumb impressions. This could happen because there were a mixture of signing women and thumb impression ladies in the same group, resulting in all of them coming across both attestations at the time of bank documentation. This can be said as first indication of their enhancement in confidence levels and part of empowerment.
- Thrift: Most of the house- wives in rural areas are poor or daily wage- earners and hence though the money earned would be insufficient to meet both ends, SHGs members, as per their commitments, in order to contribute fixed amount as savings initially or as their share later, somehow manage to put aside some portions of earnings, as this seed money calculations are worked out for deciding their credit limit by Banks, who assess potential of SHG based on the amounts saved during a period of six months. This habit of keeping aside certain portion of income daily or weekly or monthly, etc. depending on the periodicity of earnings seem to be the beginning of handling of complicated financial management later.
- Respect: It has been found that through SHGs women getting tremendous respect, which were hither- to not there earlier as they were only restricted to households taking care of children, cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. but after joining SHGs they were in addition are doing some economic activities also. With the success of SHGs movement, its members were involved in other Government Programmes like aids awareness, new schemes, etc. while Banks too are roping them for the works such as NPA recovery, etc. Even the women family members, i.e. father, father-in- law, mother, mother-in- law, husband, brother, sister, brother-in- law, sister-in- law, daughter, daughter-in- law, etc. found to be giving respect to her. Apart from these, SHGs members are found to be called for mediating in family disputes, particularly where ladies are involved, and their solutions/ settlement seem to be well taken by the disputed parties. Surprisingly, the political parties are issuing tickets to active SHGs members so that they win seats also. Few of the SHGs members are found to be holding important elected or nominated positions in villages.
- Awareness: SHGs have brought in lot of awareness among women and men alike about the female abilities and capabilities, which were hither- to not seen due to lack of opportunities provided to them. SHGs members became self- aware about themselves and their inherent strengths, especially patience and managing despite tough situations/ hardships, which they have been facing at homes for quite long. Similarly, others- including the Government authorities, Bank officials, etc. realized their potentialities.
- Teams: Working as individuals and performing as teams are two different aspects altogether as one would only utilize the energy within, several people together would be able to bring forth synergies for optimum benefit to each as well as much beyond spreading across to families, communities and Nation. Forming SHGs means coming together as teams to not only help but also solve their/ others problems. TEAM itself expands to say that ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’ and this acronym has been proved correct in the women through SHGs as the members were found to be showing empathy towards others as well as the needs thereby truly helping each other or living or working for one another or group goals.
- Engaged: It has been found that all the SHGs members are fruitfully engaged on own, i.e. either self- employed or empowered, doing or involved in carrying out some activity whether for profit/ income or non- profit/ no income. Earlier, they were engaged in household chores and after SHGs memberships their talents expanded to engage in more activities, particularly related to family/ community progress. Apart from these, many of the experienced SHGs members were also taken in as paid volunteers or advisers in various Panchayat committees, Mandal offices or elsewhere thereby creating more avenues.
- Goal- orientation: SHGs members were found to have focused on goals all the time and after attaining one they go to the next. This goal- orientation has become a regular habit among them and this was the main reason for their continued successes in what- ever task they take up among themselves or through Government or Bank. This was not there earlier when they were restricted to the households as this part was dealt with by the male members of the family but then after SHGs membership, females too started focusing on goals and contributing their mite toward fulfillment of shared goal of groups/SHGs/ families.
- Involvement: It has been found in SHGs that every member gets involved or else they are called by others including Government or Banks to take part in the various activities or programmes periodically. This involving essentiality has been the main contributing factor for acquiring requisite knowledge and/ or learning or skills in some area or the other leading to their real empowerment or self- employment. Ladies earlier too were found to be involved but at a secondary level only whereas after SHGs, members were involved at every stage as they developed confidence or ability to contribute positively if involved.
- Communication: SHGs members have the strength of communication due to their fixed frequency of regular meetings at least in a fortnight or even earlier if it was found to be essential and they find time to meet, discuss and possibly record proceedings with the help of their educated member or volunteer. Communication apart from coming together were found to be key reasons for the success of SHGs and their members both individually as well as group or team since everyone knows and works for one/ all.
Women Empowerment was essential for optimum development of the Nation as male as well as female should work together for economic progress and SHGs members, who are all women, were found to be making this happen particularly in rural areas since there seems to be more cohesiveness and teamwork thereby leading to the success of both SHGs and women, who were seemed to be made for each other. The benefits accrued due to SHGs were analyzed and found in the STRATEGIC above for understanding.
Prof. K.V. Satya Prakash’s unpublished Ph.D. Thesis on “Rural Women Empowerment in Telangana State- A Study in Warangal District” prepared and ready to submit through a supervisor at Andhra University.
*Head of the MBA Department at the Avanthi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Tagarapuvalasa
** MBA Faculty at Avanthi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Tagarapuvalasa. Mobile 9492103369