Women Empowerment through innovative micro credit activities (SHGs) Programme

Self Help Groups (SHGs) catalysed by CUTS CHD are those rural micro finance institutions (RMFIs), which are formed mostly by women aiming to build economic independence and developing negotiating skills with the formal financial institutions. Since women have long term strategies and even manage scarce resources properly, it was logical that they should make maximum mileage out of their savings. The feedback and subsequent learning of CHD have always helped in effective and efficient planning. For sustainability of project activities, the centre strategically focuses on macro environment building and micro intervention measures.

Based on the prevailing ‘livelihood scenario and demand from beneficiaries/net workers’, in April 1999 the process for formation of ‘women self help groups’ was initiated to ensure active and direct participation of women in decision making processes. These group-members decided to build their collective capacity in overcoming problems. In due course of time, they have formulated their own guidelines and work-plan to become financially strong. The formation of these groups revolves around contextual social problems and aims for sustainable livelihood generation in drought conditions.

The Centre has formed 235 Self Help Groups (SHGs). The naming of SHGs was done by the group members based on name of their village, local deity etc. All these groups regularly organise their monthly meetings at mutually convenient places during evening hours after completing their domestic chores. Each SHG has 11 to 15 members, keeping in view group homogeneity and solidarity. The group decides the amount of thrift taking into consideration each member’s income and capacity. Each group has a minimum of three records/registers namely, membership & decision register, individual savings pass-book and savings & credit register. Each SHG elects three office bearers viz., President, Secretary and Treasurer. The office bearers are decided on rotation basis, so that each member gets chance to manage. Presently these groups are engaged in collective savings and fund revolving. Almost all SHGs have been linked to banks for loaning.

The Field Organisers (FOs) participate in the monthly SHG meetings in their respective blocks as facilitators. Their roles are information dissemination (in the form of examples and success stories), providing motivational support and giving guidance during linkage with bank. The Project Coordinator, Deputy Project Coordinator, two Programme Officers and one Development Officer are responsible for providing proper plan based guidance to the FOs regarding formation, strengthening, linkage development and sustainability of SHGs. Several meetings have been organised to share the philosophy and management of SHGs among the group members. The number of Training Workshops has also been conducted with the help of National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) for the leaders/office-bearers of SHGs. The objective of the workshop was to build their managerial and financial accounting capacity in running the groups and develop their negotiating skills and linkages with the formal/semi-formal as well as development institutions working on rural micro finance.

CHD has always taken macro approach to micro credit. For the centre, the issue of empowerment of women has four aspects, viz., social, political, economic, and organisational. Importance as well as necessity of each aspect varied from time to time, place to place and group to group. The project has enhanced the capacity of rural people specially women to fight for their poverty and empowered them to raise their voice. They have now started asking for their rights in decision making process.