WOMEN EMPOWERMENT THROUGH THE SELF - HELP GROUPS IN INDIA
Women in India had been kept in dark in the name of custom, tradition and religious faith. The prospects for development had been given the opportunity. Education was alien to her. Involvement in social and political activities was totally banned. This alienation and suppression of the weaker sex promoted the union government of India to try to provide 33 percent reservation for women; through they comprise nearly 50 percent of the population. In spite of all these obstacles, women folk their role in the socio- economic development of the nation. So impressive has been the role of this group, that now the political parties are toying with the idea of utilizing this institution for getting political gain.
By empowerment, women would be able to develop self- esteem, confidence, realize their potential and enhance their collective bargaining power. Women's empowerment can be viewed as continuum of several interrelated and mutually reinforcing components.
â€¢ Awareness building about women's situation, discrimination and rights are opportunities of step towards gender equality. Collective awareness building provides a sense of group identify and the power of working as a group.
â€¢ Capacity building and skill development, especially the ability to plan, make decisions, organize, mange and carry out activates, to deal with people and instructions in the world around them.
â€¢ Participation and greater control and decision making power in home, community and society.
â€¢ Action to bring about greater equality between men and women.
Empowerment is a process of awareness and capacity building, leading to greater decision- making power and control and transformative action. The empowerment of women covers both individual and collective transformations.
Particularly women's access to credit in rural areas is beset with a number of problems like insistence of collateral security, cultural distance between rural women and banks, high transaction cost, restricted and fixed banking hours, inflexibility in quantum and purpose of credit and inconvenient repayment schedule. Dissatisfaction with the result of many formal credits system has stimulated searches for modalities that may provide effective financial services to rural poor particularly to rural women.
The concept of the self help group serves the principle of "for the people, by the people and of the people." The origin of the self help groups can be traced to the gamin bank Bangladesh, which was founded by the economist proof. Mohammad Yunus of Chittagong University in the year 1975. This was exclusively established for the poor women. It was a social movement intended for social development. In the word of T.K.Oammen an economist, "SHG is an institutionalized collective action guided by an ideology and supported by an organization structure. It is an agent of social change and is intended for that".
Self help groups have been functioning in India for the past two decades, with the assistance provided by the World Bank. Mohammed ynnus, the founder of the self help group organized the rural poor women of Bangladesh in small groups of 10-20 members and trained them in the art of saving money for themselves and also distributing the saved money along with bank loan among the needy women. In this process the women of the self help groups acquired managerial skills, self confidence and a better quality of life.
In India, the progress of the self help groups started in the 80. In this progress, path- breaking efforts were taken by the NGOs, state government like Tamil Nadu, bank and NABARD. The self help group movement has taken firm roots in many parts country. Many other varied models of micro lending to the poor has of course been in vogue in many parts of the country even earlier.
Self help groups are voluntary assoc ion of people to attain collective goals. The self help group or the "thrift " and " credit " groups are mostly informal groups whose members pool savings and relent within the group on rational or need basis. The national bank for agriculture and rural development (NABARD) in India has been encouraging the concept of self help groups in the country. The apex body had laid down various policies with regard to the identification, formation, administration, linkage with the financial institution and NGOs, monitoring and evolution of self help groups.
Throughout history women collectively have struggled against direct and indirect barriers to their self-development and their full social, political and economic participation. The history of the women's movement is usually dated back to the social reform movements of the nineteenth century and when campaigns for the betterment of the conditions of women's lives were taken up, initially by men. By the end of the century women's organization started the struggle for women's rights in the early part of the twentieth century. At present, women's movement has been able to influence policy and planning of the government for development and empowerment.
Women's movement in general are directed by the objectives i.e.., to promote better understanding of the process of social, technological and environmental changes, to contribute to the pursuit of the human rights and to develop alternative concepts, approach and strategies to bring out necessary changes for bettering the life of women with autonomy, freedom and full rights of the citizens. The women's movement and groups have to recognize the importance of the modalities of empowering women.
Today self help groups (SHGS) - movement is being increasing accepted as an innovation in the field of rural credit in many developing countries including India, to help the rural poor meet their credit needed, by prompting micro level savings adopting a participatory approach and thereby also acquiring ability to gain access to formal credit facilities .The self help groups have been success as they have made possible for the rural poor to access micro credit without the burden of collateral, and in effect questioning the age - old banking dogma which says that the poor are not credit worthy. Self help groups also provide credit at effort able rates of interest against the exploitive rates charged by money lenders. The self help groups are small informal associations formed with the objective of enabling members to reap economic benefits out of mutual help, solidarity and group responsibility. The benefits include availing small loans out of group savings and also access to formal credit facilities as well as pursuit of group activities. Now the women organizations tried to achieve equal rights as those of men. The women movement and groups have to recognize the importance of empowering themselves.
Education is the best means of empowerment. It gives greater exposure to the public and helps them in shouldering greater responsibility. Education helps the women folk in adopting better methods of child care and gives them awareness on the need to adopt family planning methods and on the importance of having healthy and hygienic atmosphere. It helps to reduce anxiety and tension. Further it is beneficial in maintaining harmonious relation in the family and also in the social system. Education for women has proved to be not only a means of making the women literate, but serves in solving so many social problems such as child labour, dowry harassment, drug abuse and alcoholism. Members of self help group expressed the view that they being the victims of illiteracy don't want to have the same problem being faced by their children.
Health is another important factor which stimulated the empowerment of women and their social development. Health condition includes not only maintaining health but also knowledge about various health programmers introduced by government and acceptance and adoption f those methods. It includes knowledge and utility of nutritional programmers, child care, protection of environment and occupational hazards. They area more aware of preventive health care. Being members of self help group, there is a close interaction among the members and that helped the illiterate people to get information from other literates.
Self help group is a boon to women because it encourages them to work, earn and help the family. Of course, some members in the group are working in the brick industry, some in the rubber thread factory and some used to help their time by simply loitering here and there. After becoming members of the self help group women think that they can involve themselves in some kind of income generating jobs. So self-help group served as an instrument of encouragement to do work. Every power depends upon money power, members of self help being poised to do work are able to get income and develop their economic conditions. Women as mangers of family inculcate a sense of saving for the benefit of the individual, the family and of the nation at large.
Legal literacy is totally missing among the members of self help group. They are ignorant weather it is relating to equality of opportunity or prohibition, of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex etc. so is the case with regard to other important laws also. They include special protection for women and children as given in the constitution, minimum wages provisions relating to marriage and divorce, maintenance and inheritance of property, provisions restricting arrest and detention of women etc. so it is necessary that legal awareness camp should be conducted to these self - help groups so that can serve the society better.
The self help group is a step in the right direction in the empowerment of women. Because of social interaction among the members, difference based on caste and complexes are removed and a sense of social integration is being created. It helps the members to create an aversion towards social evils like dowry, early marriages, divorce, and restriction on widow remarriage, domestic violence child labour and alcoholism. At the same time self help groups helped in acquiring knowledge about better sanction, child rearing, food habits and maintaining good relations raised their voice against evil practices.
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