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Empowering Rural Women through Self-Help Groups (SHGs)
Dr. Banarsi Lal and Dr. Pawan Sharma11/18/2019 10:37:29 PM
Women constitute around half of population in the social system but still there is a lot of gender discrimination in every sphere of life. Poverty and gender discrimination threaten the well-being of women, deny their choice for education and training, restrict them for their participation in different programmes, curtail political and economic rights etc. Women are given secondary importance in every section of society. Right from beginning of her life restrictions are imposed and she is prohibited to express herself properly. It has been observed that large percentage of population of women is unemployed, have poor socio-economic status, least decision making, lack education and awareness on different developmental aspects and so on. So, there is dire need to empower the women through different kinds of schemes or programmes launched by different governmental and non-government organizations.
According to 2011 census, population of Jammu and Kashmir is 1.25 crores, of which 6,640,662 are males and 5,900,640 are females. Sex ratio in Jammu and Kashmir is 889 i.e. there are only 889 females per 1000 males much below the national average of 940 females per 1000 males. The economy of Jammu and Kashmir has been facing an armed conflict from the last 30 years. Disturbance in the state has deeply affected people's employment, their attitude, behaviour, habits, health etc. The women of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered a lot especially after 80s. Women can contribute significantly to the economy of the state. Women are the key agents for the society development. Government have launched a lot of state and centrally sponsored schemes in the state from time to time for the upliftment of women. It has been observed that poor people have innate capabilities and make strenuous efforts to come out from poverty. Self-Help Groups (SHGs) especially for women help to start entrepreneurial activities and thus can help to eradicate the poverty. Formation of Self-Help Groups can be an effective tool for the women empowerment in the state. With the help of Self-Help Groups women can be trained for different kinds of skills under different programmes and schemes by the various organizations which further can help them to improve their socio-economic status. The concept of women's empowerment is the result of several important critiques, debates and discussions generated by the women's movement across the globe, especially by the third world countries.
Self-Help Group (SHG) is a small, economically homogenous and affinity based group of people who decide to save and contribute to a common fund to be lent to its members as per the group decisions. SHGs are a way to involve rural men and women actively in the developmental process by increasing the income, technical skills, mutual help, address constraints etc. The agenda of SHGs is 'Empowerment' and shift from dormant masses of the rural women to vibrant masses by bringing more income in their hands so that they can lead a better social life. Self Help Groups (SHGs) formation in J&K especially in hilly areas can assist in the women's empowerment. The origin of Self-Help Groups is the brain child of Economics Prof. Mohammad Yunus of Chittagong University who founded Gramin Bank of Bangladesh in the year 1976.This was exclusively established for the poor section of the society. The Self-Help Group movement is a silent revolution to uplift the poor people across the globe. World Micro Credit Summit was held at Washington in 1997, converged the developed and developing countries of the world to overcome the serious problem of poverty by using micro credit as a tool to empower the poor section of the society. The major objectives of SHGs are :-( 1) To inculcate the habit of saving and banking among the rural women. (2) To develop credibility among the rural women and the bankers. (3) To develop group activity so that women can start the entrepreneurships.
Women and SHGs in many parts of the country have achieved success in bringing the women to the main stream of decision making. The SHG in our country has become a source of inspiration for women's welfare. Formation of SHG is a viable alternative to achieve the objectives of rural development. SHG is also a viable organized set up to disburse micro- credit to the rural women and encouraging them together into entrepreneurial activities. To alleviate the poverty and to empower the women, the micro-finance, Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and credit management groups have also started in India. There is no doubt that the women of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered a lot during the last 30 years. SHGs formation can be one of the important options to assist these women to come out from economic distress. For this purpose, government has launched several state and centrally sponsored schemes/programmes for the upliftment of women. Some of these are as: (1) Women belonging to minority community viz, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians etc. are being financed under the national minorities' development and finance corporation.( 2) Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) scheme was introduced in 1999 with the major objective of developing micro enterprise in rural areas, thereby developing the potentials of rural poor who belong to below poverty line, financial assistance both in the form of loan and subsidy is provided to the beneficiaries, both individuals as well as Self-Help Groups so that they can set up their own entrepreneurships. As per the reports, the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana scheme is implemented in all the districts of Jammu and Kashmir. This scheme mainly emphasis on the formation of women's Self-Help Groups. (3) Reports signify that Jammu and Kashmir women's development corporation (JKWDC) has put forth various socio-economic schemes for the upliftment of women belonging to minorities, backward and other classes.( 4) Various social welfare departments also implement various schemes for the women. Presently, there are around 150 social welfare centers which impart different kinds of training to the women so that they can start their entrepreneurships. Presently there are 19 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) under SKUAST-J, SKUAST-K and CITH in the state which are imparting need based farmers and vocational trainings to the women and the trained women start the entrepreneurships in agriculture and allied sectors. These KVKs assist in the formation, management and strengthening of SHGs.
The size of an ideal Self-Help Group should be of 10 to 20 members. An informal group should not have more than 20 members and the group members should have homogeneity in their socio-economic status. It has been observed that the members in a big group do not actively participate and the chances of conflict also increase. Only one person from a family should become a member of a self-help group and in this way more number of families can join Self-Help Groups. The group should be either of only men or only women. The group leaders viz. chairman, secretary and treasurer are decided by the group members. The group leaders should be benevolent in nature and they can be rotated as per the need. It has been observed that the women groups generally perform well and women are considered more credible by the banks for returning the group dues than their counterparts. The group members should follow rules and bye-laws of SHGs. The group should meet at weekly or fortnightly intervals and the participation of all the group members in all the group meetings makes easy to stabilize and develop credibility among the group members. Fine can be fixed for not attending the group meetings and after sometimes interloaning can be initiated in the group. Registers of the group should be kept upto date by the group by making the entries regularly. The funds should be managed and controlled by the group members themselves without any outside interference. Self-Help Groups are mainly based on savings by the group members and credits from the banks. Savings and credit services from local banks are the logical methods of extension of SHGs growth strategy to mitigate the increasing credit demand in the group. The Self-Help Groups' main function is to economically empower the group members. The members join the group on voluntarily basis. They save the money and then link their credit to a nearby bank to start an economic activity. Group members are guided by government or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In hilly district Reasi women Self-Help Groups on milk processing, food processing, bracelets making etc. are assisted by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Reasi, local banks and NGOs and are working excellently. The successful SHGs can be a source of inspiration for the other people who want to earn a substantial income for the upliftment of their socio-economic status. The Self-Help Groups can be an effective technique for women empowerment in the society. The group members should have passion to work honestly for their economic improvement. In order to run the SHGs smoothly there is a need of support from the heads of the family of group members, local people and external organizations. Keeping unemployment scenario in view presently the SHG concept has immense scope in J&K. Government and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) should involve all the rural as well as urban areas economically vulnerable people to participate in the SHGs.
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