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Women Empowerment And Entrepreneurship Through SHGs

During the Vedic and Mughal periods, women were exploited. However, during the medieval and post-second World War periods, women enjoyed greater freedom in the society and family. After independence, eminent women and other reformers in the society started massive campaigns for women’s emancipation and liberation. These movements helped women to attain constitutional backing for assuring equality, dignity, justice, stability and prosperity.

Today, rural women have acquired a secondary statue in social life, economic activities and decision making among their families. Their role in productive work, employment generation and income oriented activities is hindered by many socio-economic constraints. Hence, there is a need to formulate policies, which aims for the empowerment and entrepreneurship of women.

Self Help Groups and microfinance (File Photo)

It is definite that if appropriate skills and opportunities of decision making are given to women, they are proving that they are, if not superior, at least equal to men. Women are considered to be good leaders in matters requiring collaboration, group integration and ability to listen and motivation. Recent trends in India and even at global level women are far more superior to men in various aspects of development. Only problem is that so far the society has given little chance to women to enter into the fields of various economic activities. Hence, it is necessary today to empower women by providing the facilities to enter into various economic activities to make themselves economically independent and socially confident in their endeavor.

When women move forward, the family moves, the village moves and the nation moves. Economic strength is the basis of social, political and psychological power in the society. A women entrepreneur is a recent phenomenon of late 1960’s. Earlier women were involved in self employment mostly making home products like pickles or handicrafts items which could be produced on a very small scale at home to earn money to support the scanty family income. Entrepreneurship can help women’s economic independence and improve their social status. Automatically, the women get empowered once they attain economic independence.

Alleviation of poverty is the core of all developmental programmers. Since, the 1950s, various governments in India have experimented with a large number of grants and subsidy based poverty alleviation programmers but these programmers have not been fully successful in meeting their economic objectives. At this juncture microfinance institution (MFIs) in collaboration with the government, NGOs, social organizations play a very significant role. Microfinance is seen as provision of financial service to mostly low income people, especially the poor and very poor who are without tangible assets. Microfinance is also the idea that low income individual are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty if given access to financial service. Some study suggests that microfinance can play a role in the battle of poverty.

Prof. Muhammad Yunus, of Bangladesh developed and founded the concept of microfinance. He was awarded to Noble Peace Prize in 2006 for his contribution to institutions like Microfinance and Grameen Bank system. Noble laureate Mr. Yunus founded the Grameen Banks in 1976 to make loans to poor Bangladeshis.

Microfinance can help the poor to increase income, build viable businesses and reduce their vulnerability to external shock. It can also be a powerful instrument for self-employment by enabling the poor especially women, to become economic agents of change. Providing financial services to poor people is pretty expensive, especially in relation to the size of the transaction involved. This is one of the most important reasons why Banks don’t make small loans.

There are two major models under microfinance namely 1) Self Help Group-Bank Linkage (SHG-BL) and 2) Microfinance institute (MFIs)

Self Help Group is a voluntarily formed group with member size of 10-20. Basically Self Help Groups are homogeneous in nature. Members come together for addressing common problems. The amount of saving is within the range of Rs.20-150 per month. They rotate this common pooled resource within the members itself with a very small rate of interest. The president or secretary of SHG usually maintains records of transactions on a daily basis. In India NABARD initiated SHGs in 1986-87. The SHG concept is to bring banking service to the door steps of the poor, especially the women who have been neglected by the formal financial agencies in the past.

There are very large numbers of institutions, both in the formal and non- formal sectors. They are providing a variety of financial services using different delivery mechanisms. Microfinance institutions include NGOs, federations of SHGs, Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies (MACS), state and national cooperatives which provide specified financial services targeted to the poor.

Empowering Women has become the key element in the development of any economy. The role of micro-credit is to, improve the socio and economic development of women and improve the status of women in households and communities. The micro entrepreneur-ships are strengthening the women empowerment and remove the gender inequalities. Self Help Group’s micro credit mechanism makes the members to involve in other community development activities. Micro credit is promoting the small scale business enterprises and its major aim is to alleviate poverty by income generating activities among women and poor. The rural women are engaged in small-scale entrepreneurship programmed with the help of Self Help Groups. Through that they were economically empowered and attaining status in family and community.

Empowerment of rural women is an important aspect today and self- help group is an important tool. Self- help groups have successfully developed a system of revolving credit for the benefit of group members on their own savings. The linking of these self-help groups with formal financial institutions has further enhanced availability of micro-credit financing to the groups. The SHGs have successfully maintained a high rate of loan repayment and successfully generated income, jobs and small enterprises for their members.

*The article is written by Lisham Anandakumar Singh.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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