Vol. 7 No. 2 May 2012
BEST PRACTICES OF SELF HELP GROUPS AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT: A CASE OF BARAK VALLEY OF ASSAM Sanjay Kanti Das Head, Department of Commerce, Lumding College, Lumding, Nagaon, Assam - 782447, India. E-mail:- firstname.lastname@example.org ABSTRACT Self help groups (SHGs) have emerged as popular method of working with people in recent years. Since SHG based micro finance programmes cover a large number of women, it is expected that such programmes will have an important bearing on women‟s empowerment. Self-Help Groups (SHGs) have emerged in order to help poor women to secure inputs like credit and other services. Micro finance and SHGs are effective in reducing poverty, empowering women, creating awareness and ensure sustainability of environment which finally results in sustainable development of the nation. To avert such a situation, growth with quality has became the paramount agenda of today among different stakeholders, as there is an over reaching concern about sustainability of the SHG movement in India. Self-help groups have been instrumental in empowerment by enabling women to work together in collective agency. An effort is made in this paper to make a comparative analysis on the quality and performance of the SHGs and the impact of SHGs on women members in Barak Valley of Assam (Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts). It is observed that due to fast growing of the SHG-bank linkage programme in the State, the quality of SHG has come under stress. Some of the factors affecting the quality of SHGs are the target oriented approach of the government in preparing group, inadequate incentive to NGO‟s for nurturing their groups etc. Further, it is observed from the Table 17 that impact on decision making pattern ranks first followed by economic empowerment and then psychological aspects. Confidence building ranks fourth while Social empowerment ranks the fifth and so on. Keywords: Quality issues, Quality Assessment Tools, Self Help Group, SHG-Bank Linkage Programme, Women empowerment. Paper Type: Research Paper INTRODUCTION Micro finance through Self Help Group (henceforth SHG) has been recognized internationally as the modern tool to combat poverty and for rural development. SHGs have emerged in order to help poor women to secure inputs like credit and other services. The concept of SHG in India was introduced in 1985 and consequently a pilot scheme was started on Self-Help Bank Linkage Programme (SBLP) by NABARD in 1992. SHGs are small, economical, homogeneous, affinity groups of rural poor who are voluntarily ready to contribute to a common fund to be lent to their members as per the group decision. They work for group solidarity, self group awareness and social and economic empowerment through democratic functioning. Many rural development programmes like SGSY which is a combination of six rural development programmes, are based on the self-help group strategy. It is a viable alternative to achieve the objectives of rural development and to get women‟s participation in all rural development programmes. Microfinance programmes like the SBLP in India have been increasingly hailed for their positive economic impact and the empowerment women. This is based on the view that women are more likely to be credit constrained, have restricted
Far East Research Centre
access to wage labour market and have limited decision-making and bargaining power within the household. This article argues that true women empowerment takes place when women challenge the existing norms and culture, to effectively improve their well being. While doing so, it carefully interprets the World Bank's definition of empowerment within the South Asian contexts and makes comprehensible distinctions between community driven development, efficiency improving activities that are culturally considered to be women's domain and activities which truly...