Self Help Groups (SHGs) are informal groups involving people of similar socio-economic background who perform common tasks together in a collective fashion. SHGs mainly consist of 10-20 women or men from the underprivileged section who work together and save an amount of money from their earnings in a common fund. The members of the group are given from the common fund in case of emergencies. These are also linked to banks for giving micro credits. SHGs were mainly created to boost the economic conditions of rural women who are deprived of the essential resources and self-reliance. The women SHGs have helped in improving the status of rural women and empowered them socially and economically. The scheme was started by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) main rural development body giving stressing the need for self employment generation for women living in the rural and semi rural areas.
For understanding the role of SHGs in women empowerment its important to understand the functions of SHGs by which women are benefitted.
Making aware of the basic rights and upholding dignity
Women in rural areas face multiple problems related to their social security. It is often seen that girls are married off at an early age, dropping out of schools, becoming victims of domestic violence, etc. With the help of SHGs they are explained the basic fundamental rights and help them to become active decision makers rather than passive speakers. These groups instill confidence in women and help them realize their capabilities. Through these groups the women are made aware of the nutrition, measures of birth control, etc.
The Importance of Bank Lineage
The Bank Self Help Group Linkage Programme was started in the early 1990s to help the people working in the unorganized sector with banking facilities. This was done under the initiative of NABARD in 1992 to associate the unorganized sector with the bank to help the marginalized section of the society. This programme permitted the banks to open savings account for the SHGs. The SHGs consist of a common fund with the agreement of all members of the groups and granted loans to the members during their needs and emergencies. The banks give loans to the members against group guarantee and the amount could be more than the original deposits of the SHGs in the bank accounts. The members were given loans in cases of marriage, housing, education, income generational activities, etc.
This system helped the rural women to become self sufficient and economically independent. With their earnings and occasional loans from banks allowed them to support their family and improve the conditions of living. In this way they gained economic prosperity, learnt to save from their earnings and managed their own finances. Self dependence and economic stability also encouraged many of them to take up responsibilities related the development of women.
Dealing with problems and find solutions
Regular meetings are held among the group members where they discuss their interests, come up with common problems and try to find appropriate solution to the problems. It is a platform which allows them to act collectively and create bonds with one another.
Understanding the social problems
The SHGs also take part in eliminating the social problems like child marriage, dowry, domestic violence, addiction, etc. The members actively work for spreading awareness among families related to the education of the girl children. They also conduct campaigns and organize meetings with the family members of the women to promote equality and bring down the discrimination of women in the society. Apart from the mentioned activities performed by SHGs groups the women in the groups are also given training regarding farming practices, sewing and other management skills which also pave the way for their employment opportunities. The SHGs are no doubt doing well in empowering the women and making them realize their potential of self sufficient participants of the society. It has been proved that the place of an underprivileged woman with little or no education is not within the four walls of the house. When they are given opportunities they can discover their qualities and earn their living too. But it should also be kept in mind that SHGs cannot perform well without transparency and solidarity among the members. So, it’s important for all the members to maintain unity and honesty among themselves for the welfare of all.