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Approach:

  1. Introduction
  2. State of women employment in India.
  3. Briefly mention the definition and need for SHGs.
  4. Pointwise mention the role of SHGs with examples/case studies.
  5. Conclusion

Despite the multidimensional growth that India has achieved, concerns remain relevant even today. Although women constitute almost half of India’s population of 1.2 billion, they are largely excluded from participating in economic activities and decision-making, as well as access to resources of health, nutrition, education, etc. This exclusion and discrimination is reflected in low female labour force participation rates, with India recording a meagre 22.3% in 2021 in comparison with 30.3% in 1990.

Even though working women account for approximately 432 million, about 343 million are not in paid formal job roles. An estimated 324 million of them are not in the labour force; and another 19 million are part of the labour force but not employed. Hence, the nature of employment among women is either not accounted for in the formal economy, or women end up not having access to formal jobs due to existent socio-cultural complexities.

As a society with deep-rooted patriarchy, even if women want to attain employment, the dominant tradition of female domestic responsibility coupled with social stigma limits their economic advancement and access to opportunities in comparison with their male counterparts.

To overcome social stigmas around employment and give women the agency to break out of the shackles of subordination, entrepreneurship is an innovative-simple tool. However, despite efforts to create better environment for women entrepreneurs in India, the arranging of finances remains the single biggest challenge. In such a scenario, self-help groups (SHG) can act as a bridge between women entrepreneurs who have the desire to begin an enterprise but do not have adequate resources to fulfil their dream.

An SHG comprises a small group of women (usually 15-20) who come together to make regular monetary contributions. Emerging as important micro-finance systems, SHGs work as platforms that promote solidarity among women, bringing them together on issues of health, nutrition, gender parity and gender justice.

Role of SHGs in women empowerment:

  • SHGs have already made a significant contribution in developing entrepreneurship aptitudes among rural women by enhancing their skills and giving them a chance to engage in various entrepreneurial activities.
  • SHGs provide women entrepreneurs with micro-loans to sustain their businesses, while also creating an environment for them to develop greater agency and decision-making skills.
  • Today, apart from being a conduit for credit in the state, SHGs also deliver services ranging from entrepreneurial training, livelihood promotion and community development for women entrepreneurs.
  • Case studies:
  • For e.g., SHGs such as Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahila Mandal, UMED Abhiyan under Maharashtra’s department of rural development’s State Rural Livelihood Mission, and government schemes such as Tejaswani, etc, have proven beneficial in the development of women entrepreneurship.
  • SHGs in Maharashtra have had a strong impact on a range of indicators related to women’s empowerment in the state, including political participation, knowledge of administration, financial literacy, mobility and decision-making.
  • In Maharashtra alone, 527,000 SHGs have had a role to play in accounting for over 50% of all women-led small-scale industrial units in India.
  • Kudumbashree in Kerala: It was launched in Kerala in 1998 to wipe out absolute poverty through community action. It is the largest women empowering project in the country. It has three components i.e., microcredit, entrepreneurship and empowerment. It has three tier structureneighbourhood groups, area development society (15-20 SHGs) and Community development society (federation of all groups).
  • Self-help groups are exceedingly relevant today because their provision of micro-loans helps overcome regional imbalances as well as information asymmetries.
  • A multi-faceted IFMR study conducted by the ministry of rural development, found that women aided by SHGs were 10% more likely to save on a regular basis, resulting in economic empowerment, while working towards a better future for the next generation.
  • Observing the crucial role they play, corporations and foundations globally have designed SHG-led programmes to help women achieve economic empowerment.
  • Initiatives like the UdyamStree campaign by EdelGive Foundation, has focused on women entrepreneurs in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
  • Facebook’s Pragati and Google’s Women Will, have fostered a level-playing field for women entrepreneurs.

The revolutionary momentum that SHGs have created has given women an important sense of self-assurance in their journey to become ‘aatmanirbhar’.

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