Thursday, 5 January 2012

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN THROUGH SELF HELP GROUPS IN ANDHRA PRADESH

     ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN
            THROUGH SELF HELP GROUPS IN ANDHRA PRADESH

(This article was presented at the State Level Seminar in Degree & PG College Bhadrachalam, Khammam District - AP - India and Published in the Seminar Volume)

                                                                                                                    -Dr.S.Vijay Kumar


           The origin of SHGs is from the idea of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, which was founded by Mohammed Yunus.  SHGs were started and formed in 1975.  In India NABARD has initiated SHGs in 1986-87. It is the replica of Bangladesh model. But, the real effort was done after 1991-92 from the linkage of SHGs with the banks.  A SHG is a small economically homogeneous affinity group of the rural poor voluntarily coming together to save small amount regularly, which are deposited in a common fund to meet members emergency needs and to provide collateral free loans decided by the group. They have been recognized as useful tool to help the poor and as an alternative mechanism to meet the urgent credit needs of poor through thrift. SHG is a media for the development of saving habit among the women. SHGs enhance the equality of status of women as participants, decision-makers and beneficiaries in the democratic, economic, social and cultural spheres of life. The basic principles of the SHGs are group approach, mutual trust, organization of small and manageable groups, group cohesiveness, sprit of thrift, demand based lending, collateral free, women friendly loan, peer group pressure in repayment, skill training capacity building and empowerment.

         The Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken up the theme of women’s empowerment as one of the strategies to tackle the socio – economic poverty. Self Help movement through savings has been taken up as a mass movement by women– a path chosen by them to shape their destiny for better. Development Agenda of the State in the last few years placing the people, especially women in the fore –front has enabled formation of a large number of Self Help Groups (SHGs) throughout the State and majority of women are saving one rupee a day. The State government is consciously making an effort to assist SHGs by providing Revolving Fund / Matching grant under various programmes.

SHGs - A MOVEMENT IN ANDHRA PRADESH:
There are about 4.65 lakhs women SHGs in Andhra Pradesh covering nearly 61.70 lakhs poor women. Andhra Pradesh alone has about half of SHGs organized in the Country. The SHGs are also popularly called DWCRA Groups, and this name became popular after the DWCRA programme (Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas) through which women’s groups were assisted initially. The SHGs are not only resorting to thrift but also are taking small loans out of the corpus available with the group. The group corpus consists of savings, government assistance and also bank loan. Members use the loan out of group corpus for their personal needs initially. However, in the long run such loans are utilised for income generation activities. Since inception an amount of Rs.1556.90 crores is mobilized as corpus by these groups.

MICRO CREDIT TO SHGs:
        Micro credit summit conducted in 1997 in Washington resolved to reach 100 million poor women by 2005 all over the world. In Andhra Pradesh alone, 61.70 lakh women were covered under micro credit with a saving of a rupee per day and the financial institutions extending loans upto 4 times to the amount of group savings. From the year 1997 to January 2003, Banks extended a loan of Rs.1345 crores to SHG and the recovery of loans is more than 95%. Recently commercial banks have reduced interest rate on the loans extended to SHGs from 12% to 9%.

BUILDING INSTITUTIONS FOR SHGs:
        Women’s savings movement started in 1993 as an off shoot of total literacy campaigns successfully conducted by the pro-active government initiatives in the southern part of Andhra Pradesh, poor women agitated against sale of arrack, organized themselves into ‘Thrift and Credit groups’ with one rupee saving in a day had now turned into a mass movement in which 61.70 lakh members saved more than Rs.887.47 crores which is rotated internally and lent amongst the members twice in a year as per the interest rates fixed by the groups. Such amounts are used for their daily consumption needs and also for production of goods for sales to earn incomes. 

GEOGRAPHICAL SPREAD:
    All the villages in the state have at least one SHG and 75% of the villages have 15-20 groups in each. Government felt the necessity of building institutions for SHG at the village and mandal level (‘Mandal’ is an administrative unit equivalent 1/3 size of a block). Village organisations and mandal federations are formed and the latter are registered under the mutually aided co-operative societies Act 1995. Such federations take up functions like pensions to old people, insurance services to members, procurement of raw materials and marketing of finished products, accessing community infrastructure facilities, providing market information and other services to the members.

FUNCTIONS OF SHGs:
· Create a common fund by the members through their regular savings.
· Flexible working system and pool the resources in a democratic way.
· Periodical meeting.  The decision making through group meeting.
· The loan amount is small and reasonable.  So that easy to repay in time. The rate of interest is affordable, varying group to group and loan to    loan. However, it is little higher than the banks but lower than the money lenders.

WORKING OF SELF HELP GROUPS:
1. Wealth Ranking:  At first stage, the SHG will categorize its members on the basis of wealth into different ranks. On the basis of socio-economic conditions a list is prepared for obtaining loans from banks. That is, very poor, people below poverty line. SCs and STs are given preference to others.                                    
2. List of Household investment Plans:  After ranking, SHG members’ loan list is prepared with regard to their selected work or need, required total loan .Then, the society will scrutiny every application and decide the loan amount, total installments, repayment of duration and loan regulations, while deciding so, chances of their income from the selected work in that local area and their ability to take up that work profitably are taken in to consideration.
3. Recording in minute’s book:  All the above said activities are carried out in SHG meetings. The particulars are recorded in its minute’s book.

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF SHGs:
60% of the women take up economic activities related to agriculture and allied activities. Land lease for growing agricultural crop is a common practice in the 9 Telangana districts. Vegetable and Flower cultivation, food crops and pulses, oil seeds cultivation are taken up on leased lands. Similarly rearing of calves, ram lamb, chicks, piggery and duckery, dairy, value addition to milk and milk products are preferred by women agricultural labourers. Illiterate and unskilled women engage in small business activities. Nearly 20% of the SHG members are artisans and engaged in making handicrafts and handloom products. Public private partnership method is adopted in promoting economic opportunities to SHG members by appointing them as dealers for the sale of products manufactured by companies like Hindustan Levers Limited, TVS, TTK-Prestige, Colgate-Palmolive, Philips etc. Companies in return train SHGs in finance management, enterprise development, packaging, branding and pricing of products. This partnership is a win model. Andhra Pradesh is now engaged in intense pursuit of development programmes utilizing information technology (IT) and to strategize as to how the benefits of IT could be taken to rural areas. SHGs are encouraged to get PCs and software for accessing information and developing their business. Their products are photographed, scanned and displayed on websites. These are put on the portals of e-commerce companies. Handicrafts, herbal medicines and cosmetics, hand woven and embroidered curtains, toys, paintings etc., are thus finding national and international markets. This would not have been possible without the internet. The members are enabled to take a mobile telephone and use it not only for the sales but as a public telephone.      
                                
RURAL CREDIT AND SHGs:
One of the reasons for joining SHGs is to avail credit. The credit organizations like nationalized banks, Co-operative Societies and so on, follow many formalities to provide credit to the rural people.  At the same time village money lenders charge very high rate of interest.  In this situation, SHGs are the boon to the rural people, because instead of approaching banks individually, SHGs can easily approach the banks and other institutions to get loan.  The SHGs get loan from credit institutions, then they refinance (share) to the members in the SHGs.  The SHGs charge reasonable interest.  All the members are responsible to repay the loan to the banks.  Therefore, members repay the loan in time. Moreover, banks instruct the members to save minimum   Rs. 200 per month.  So re-payment is very easy to SHGs. The loans can be used by individual group members for their personal needs, sometime the group may invest on any economic activities.  Nowadays, many SHGs are starting small business, cottage industries, food processing units etc.   The SHGs grant the loan to their members for various purposes.  The maximum loan amount per members is decided by the general body meeting. Almost all the members are availing the loan facilities in their SHGs.

IMPACT OF SHGs MOVEMENT:
Various organisations evaluated SHGs. NGOs, Universities, National Bank for Agricultural & Rural Development (NABARD) and ORG-Marg. Some of the salient features are:
·  98% of the members make savings regularly as the norms prescribed by the groups.
·  All the groups meet at least once in a month to discuss various social issues related to their day to day life. 
· 98% of eligible members adopt small family norms.
·  100% children of SHG members are able to access immunization services against the 6 diseases. 
·  30% of the members have access to safe cooking fuels (LPG) under the Government promoted scheme popularly known as“DEEPAM”.                                                
·  80% of the total SHGs have accessed financial assistance from banks and repayment is 98%.                                                
· 10,000 SHG members were elected to the local bodies (3 term Panchayat Raj Institutions) in 1997 November elections.
·  Members are engaged in 450 varieties of income generating activities.
· Additional family incomes to member range from Rs.1000-3000 per annum depending on the income generating activities.
·  Increase in self confidence and self esteem.
·  Increase in awareness levels about the society and community.
· Voluntary participation in community activities like laying roads, planting trees, conserving environment, construction of water harvesting structures, donations to the victims of natural calamities, helping to reduce crime against girls & women, campaign against eradication of social evils like dowry, child marriages, untouchables, AIDS, rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned children, counseling adolescent girls, support to widows and destitute are a few to mention. 
· SHG members learning from the past experiences are walking through the present and are marching ahead for a bright future.
· Government of Andhra Pradesh has rightly realized that the involvement of the rural poor women in development will speed up attainment of Swarnandhrapradesh and realising the Vision indeed.

SUGGESSIONS: 
· Literacy and numeric training is needed for the poor women to benefit from the micro-credit schemes.
· Training in legal literacy, rights and gender awareness are important complements to micro-credit for the empowerment of women. The members should be given necessary training and guidance for the successful operation of the group.
· The members of the SHG should be more active, enthusiastic and dynamic to mobilize their savings by group actions. In this process NGOs should act as a facilitator and motivator.
· The office bearers managing the group should be given nominal financial benefits, which will enable them to be more involved in the activities of the Group.
· The bank should advance adequate credit to the SHG according to their    needs.                         · Uniformity should be maintained in formation and extension of financial assistance to them by banks in all mandals.
· The procedure of the banks in sanctioning credit to SHG should be simple and quick.
·  Marketing facilities for the sale of products of SHGs may be created.
· Periodical exhibitions at the mandal-level may be organized where the products of SHGs can be displayed.
· Meetings and Seminars may be organized where the members will get a chance to exchange their views and be able to develop their group strength by interactions.
·Active intervention by district administration, professional bodies and voluntaryorganizations is precondition for the successful conception of micro enterprises in terms of skill training, designing products, providing new technology and access to market.

CONCLUSION:
       In this twenty-first century, we must take along an active people-centred and growth-oriented poverty alleviation strategy – a strategy which seems to incorporate women’s aspirations, dynamism and involvement.  It is envisaged that self-help groups will play a vital role in such strategy. But, there is a need for structural orientation of the groups to suit the requirements of new business.
       Micro credit movement has to be viewed from a long-term perspective under SHG framework, which underlines the need for  a deliberate policy implications in favour of assurance in terms of technology back-up, product market and human resource development.      Hence, there is a need for the development of an innovative and diversified micro-finance sector, which will make a real contribution to women empowerment.
                    
                               REFERENCES

1. Krishana, Vijaya R. and Das, Amarnath R. (2003), “ Self Help            Groups” – A     Study in A.P. Districts, HRD Times, May.
2. Rasure K. A. (2003), “Women’s Empowerment Through SHGs”, Journal of Fact for you, November.
3. Ariz Ah;med, M. (1999), “ Women Empowerment: Self Help Groups:, Kurukshetra, April.
4. Damayanthi, U.T. (1999), “ Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas – An Impact Study”, The Asian Economic Review, August.
5. Dodkey, M.D. (1999), “SHGs and Micro Credit, Sustaining Rural Women”, Social Welfare, March.
6. Lalitha N. and B.S. Nagarajan (2002), “Self Help Groups in Rural Development”, New Delhi: dominant Publishers and Distributors.
7. Rao, V.M. (2003), Women Self Help Groups, Profiles from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka”, Kurukshetra.
8. Ritu Jain, (2003), “Socio-Economics Impact Through Self Help Groups”, Yojana, Vol. 47, No.7, pp.11-12.
9. Manimekalai, K. (2004), “Economic Empowerment of Women Through Self-Help Groups”, Third Concept, February
10. Sahu and Tripathy (2005), Self-Help Groups and Women Empowerment, Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi.
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