Friday, December 30, 2016

SHGs as agents of Change ?

         SHGs AS AGENTS OF




This study examined the question whether SHGs have acted as agents of change. Specifically, the study investigated whether the Self Help Group (SHG) movement has created social capital and networks; increased the awareness of SHG members on rights related to issues like inheritance and education; increased the bargaining power of SHG members; helped changing outlook towards social evils; encouraged members to participate and lead social programs; increased political awareness and participation in the political process.

To answer these questions the study focused on four districts in Tamil Nadu; Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri. A total of 600 SHG members from these districts were surveyed. Ten Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were also conducted with SHG members. In-depth interviews with select SHG members also provided additional data to construct individual cases.

Findings from the study indicate the following:

First, SHG movement in Tamil Nadu has resulted in enhancement of social capital. An important measure of this enhancement is the increased level of trust among SHG members. More than 96% of SHG members indicate that the joint savings mechanism has not only increased trust but have also resulted in a sense of strong ownership.

Second, most SHG members indicate that SHG membership have expanded their networks. The networks now encompass a wide range of stakeholders -- other members of SHGs, bank officials, Government officials. The combination of interaction with other SHG members and other stakeholders has meant that the general level of confidence has gone up among SHG members. More than 98% of the respondents indicate that their confidence has gone up considerably after attending SHG related meetings.

Third, the creation and mobilization of social capital through the SHG movement has resulted in economic mobility for most of the participants. In general, 62% of the participants in this study indicate that SHG movement has resulted in an upward

economic mobility for them. More importantly, higher proportion of the very poor, poor and lower middle class report economic improvement in comparison to middle class and well-off.

Fourth, while social capital has increased in Tamil Nadu its potential has not been fully utilized as not many groups pool together their savings to start a group-led and managed enterprise. More than 98% of the respondents indicate that they do not pool their savings to start a joint enterprise. Interviews indicate that lack of awareness about such joint initiatives and problems associated with marketing as some key reasons for this lack of initiative.

Fifth, Awareness of rights related to inheritance and property has gone up. In general SHG members also show high awareness about key government schemes. More than 99% of women SHG members are aware of property rights related to women. Similarly, more than 98% of the women are aware of government pension and insurance schemes.

Sixth, most SHG members do understand the negative effects of social evils and voice their opinion against it. More than 80% of women indicated that they voice their views against alcoholism, domestic violence and child marriage within their households. However, action against social issues or evils in the neighbourhood is also constrained by the perceived inappropriateness of interfering in personal lives of others.

Seventh, this study assessed bargaining power of women at two levels; household and community. Bargaining power of respondents have enhanced significantly in households after they became members of SHG. A key finding is that 95.47% of SHG members indicate that the household respects them more after they joined SHGs. Extending it to the sphere of the community 86.43% of women say that the community respects them more today. Overall, all decisions related to households are taken in joint consultation with the SHG members. At the level of the community any active participation or leadership of social programs is often limited because of a perceived lack of support from family members. Yet, many women indicate that they do offer emotional support to other individual SHG members who are keen to exercise their bargaining power.

 Eighth, the findings of this study indicates that though most SHG members exercised their democratic rights (more than 94%) by voting in elections the awareness levels about their elected representatives were low. Participation of SHG members in village and district-level meetings is also limited and very few SHG members show an inclination or have contested in elections held for electing people‘s representatives at various levels.

Based on these findings this report recommends the following to enhance SHGs potential to act as agents of change.

Identification of appropriate businesses for groups and training them in areas related to management of businesses might have to be initiated by either the NGOs or other relevant financial institutions. The SHGs can be encouraged to invest part of their joint savings for a pilot enterprise and an equivalent amount can be granted as a loan by banks. To facilitate transfer of ideas periodic multi-group holdings can be convened. Similarly, to enhance and support women‘s livelihood decision choices in addition to training programs, which are now offered by NGOs for individual members, collaborative efforts could be encouraged by creating a cluster-based approach towards businesses to overcome supply chain constraints in sourcing of resources and in marketing multiple end products.

In addition, given the context of consultative decision-making process in the household key members of the household could also be given some exposure to business related training programs.

SHGs offer excellent avenues to promote awareness about social evils, multiple stakeholders including government agencies and NGOs have to work together in a concerted manner. However, SHGs have a long way to go before they routinely act against social evils. To encourage more women to act against such acts in their neighbourhoods, along with awareness campaigns, information regarding appropriate officials and helplines to be contacted to complain can be provided. This information will encourage more women to act against social evils in their neighbourhoods in a sensitive but effective manner.

Finally, support of family members is key to participation in social action and in political processes. Events celebrating women leaders who have already made their mark can be conducted regularly inviting families to attend such events so that there is encouragement and support from families for women engaging in local political processes and to act against social evils in their communities.

( This is a summary of the study done by IFMR , Chennai ) Published by NABARD   


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Works at NABARD for poor HH / was Research Affiliate at CDS, Tvm / was Visiting Faculty on microFinance for MBA students NMIMS, Mumbai.