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Empowering women self-help Groups : Role of Distance Education:

Empowering women self-help Groups : Role of Distance Education Prof. M.K.Ghadoliya Deptt.of Economics Vardhaman Mahaveer Open University, Kota (Rajasthan) India mkghadoliya@rediffmail.com

Introduction   :

Introduction This paper is divided into three sections. In the first section we shall discuss the concept of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) as an instrument of economic empowerment, its various models and the strength of informal sector over formal sector. In section II we shall present the progress of the SHG-Bank led model of micro-financing in India, and finally in section III we shall conclude with the presentation of strategy of women empowerment by linking benefits extended by the governments to the members of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) with open and distance education, degrees or diplomas.

Self-Help Groups as an Instrument of Economic Empowerment :

Self-Help Groups as an Instrument of Economic Empowerment Self – Help Group (SHG) is a small voluntary association of poor people, preferably from the same socioeconomic background. They come together for the purpose of solving their common problems through self-help and mutual help. The SHG promotes small savings among its members. The savings are kept with a bank. This common fund is in the name of the SHG. Usually, the number of members in one SHG does not exceed twenty.

The concept of SHG is based on the following principles: :

The concept of SHG is based on the following principles: Self-help supplemented with mutual help can be a powerful vehicle for the poor in their socioeconomic development; Participative financial services management is more responsive and efficient; Poor need not only credit support, but also savings and other services; Poor can save and are bankable and SHGs as clients, result in wider out reach, lower transaction cost and much lower risk costs for the banks;


Contd.. Creation of a common fund by contributing small savings on a regular basis; Flexible democratic system of working; Loaning is done mainly on trust with a bare documentation and without any security; Amounts loaned are small, frequent and for short duration; Defaults are rare mainly due to group pressure; and Periodic meetings non-traditional savings.


Strategy There were certain misconception about the poor people that they need loan at subsidized rates of interest on soft terms, they lack skills, capacity to save, credit worthiness and therefore are not bankable. The experiences of several and SHGs reveal that rural poors are actually the efficient managers of credit and finance. Availability of timely and adequate credit is essential for them in their enterprises rather than subsidies


Contd.. Empowerment is not essentially political alone; it is a process having personal, economic, social and political dimensions with personal empowerment being the core of the empowerment process. In fact political empowerment will not succeed in the absence of economic empowerment.


Contd.. Most importantly micro-finance programmes enable women to contribute to the household economy, increasing their intra-household bargaining power.


Contd.. . Thus, micro financing through Self-help groups has transferred the real economic power in the hands of women and has considerably reduced their dependence on men. But the lack of education often comes in the way and many a times they had to seek help from their husbands or any other educated man/ woman for day-to-day work


Contd.. The political as well as economic empowerment will not succeed in the absence of women education in skills and vocations they require the most The Governments in developing countries therefore must take effective steps to enroll the members of SHGs in the Schemes of open schooling or any other distance mode to impart education.

Bank-SHGs linkage models :

Bank-SHGs linkage models Model I: - Banks provide micro finance to non-governmental organisation (NGOs) for lending to SHGs and ultimately to the micro entrepreneur (It covers about 27% of SHGs) Model II: - Banks provide direct financing directly to SHGs for on landing to micro entrepreneur (It covers 17%)

Bank-SHGs linkage models: contd.. :

Bank-SHGs linkage models: contd.. Model III: - Banks finance directly to SHGs for on lending to micro entrepreneur with the intervention of NGO as social mobilizers and facilitators (It covers 56% of SHGs). Model IV: - The fourth model envisages bank loans directly to individual members of SHGs upon recommendations of the SHGs and NGO. In this case, the NGO assists the Bank in monitoring supervising and recovery of loans.

Formal vs Informal systems :

Formal vs Informal systems Traditionally, the formal sector Banking Institution in India have been serving only the needs of the commercial sector and providing loans for middle and upper income groups because of the followings risks of lending:

Risks of lending: :

Risks of lending: Credit and Risks High transaction and service cost Absence of land tenure for financing housing Lack of tangible proofs for assessment of income Unacceptable collaterals such as crops, utensils and jewellery

Formal Financial Institutions :

Formal Financial Institutions In India, we have multi-agency rural credit delivery structure comprising commercial Banks, Regional Rural Banks and Cooperative Banks with a large network of more than 1,53,000 retail credit outlets (One for every 4100 population). Yet reaching the poorest, whose credit requirements are very small, frequent and unpredictable, is still a difficult task.


Contd.. Banks too experienced certain problems like poor repayment, lack of supervision and monitoring, high proportion of non – performing assets and poor repayment Since the credit requirements of the rural poor cannot be adopted on project lending approach (like in formal organized sector) there emerged the need for an informal credit supply through SHGs

Social intermediation is required for: :

Social intermediation is required for: Organising rural poor women Educating them Imparting Training and skill


Contd.. Government of India has recognized the important role of credit delivery for overall development of agricultural sector. Agricultural sector that contributes 22.1 per cent of the GDP and provides employment to nearly 65 per cent of rural labour. The government has taken several initiatives to strengthen the institutional rural credit system.

Strength of Informal Sources :

Strength of Informal Sources The informal financial sources generally include funds available from family sources or local moneylenders. The local moneylenders charge exorbitant rates of interest due to their informal behavior and absence of any other source of credit for non-conventional needs. Chit funds, Bishis, are other forms of credit operated by groups of people for their mutual benefit. The community based financial system can be categorized into two models: · Group Based Financial Intermediary · NGO Linked Financial Intermediary


Contd.. Most of the NGOs like SHARAN in Delhi, Federation of Thrift and Credit Association (FTCA) in Hyderabad, or SPARC in Bombay have adopted the first model where they initiate the groups and provide necessary management support. Others like SEWA in Ahmedabad, or Baroda Citizen’s Council in Baroda pertain to the second model.


Contd.. At international level Dr. Mohammed Yunus of Chittagong University popularized the informal system of financing by establishing Grameen Bank (GB) in 1976. The Grameen Bank has over 1000branches (a branch covers 25-30 villages around 240 groups and 1200 borrowers) in every province of Bangladesh, covering 28000 villages 12 lakh borrowers with over 90% being women. The most important feature of GB is its recovery rate, which is as high as 98%. It advances credit without any collateral security.

Factors behind success of G. B. are: :

Factors behind success of G. B. are: Peer pressure of group members on each other, lending for activities, which generate regular income, Weekly collection of loans in small amount, Intense interactions with borrowers through weekly meetings, Strong central management, dedicated field staff, Extensive staff training,Willingness to innovate, Committed pragmatic leadership, and Decentralized as well as participatory style of working.

Progress of Micro-Credit through SHGs in India :

Progress of Micro-Credit through SHGs in India A pilot project for linking SHGs with banks was launched by NABARD in 1992. The Reserve Bank of India persuaded Commercial Banks, Regional Rural Banks and Cooperative Banks to actively participate in the linkage programme. Under the RBI’s guidelines, banks were given permission to open saving bank account in the name of SHG, and relaxation of security requirements.

The main objectives were to provide the following: :

The main objectives were to provide the following: Supplementary credit to SHGs Reductions in transactions cost for both banks as well as SHGs by reducing paper work. To mobilize small savings among poor rural women. To build mutual trust and confidence between Banks, NGOs and rural poor To create healthy relations between SHGs members and linking agencies Constant supervision and monitoring by banks through NGOs


contd.. In March 1999, about 0.56 million families engaged in micro enterprises were financed under the scheme through 33000 SHGs (of which 84% were women SHGs [1] . In all 202 banks consisting of 129 (64%) RRBs, 38 (19%) Commercial Banks and 35 (17%) Cooperative Banks participated in the programme. [1] Dadhich, C.L. Lessons from the Micro Credit Experience of India, www.aproacha.th.com

contd.. :

contd.. A total of 550 NGOs, were involved. The aggregate loan outstanding was Rs. 570 million. The average loan outstanding per SHG and per micro entrepreneur worked out to Rs. 17297 and Rs. 1019 respectively. The average number of micro entrepreneurs per SHG is 19. The number of SHGs linked to banks has increased to 7,17,360 as on March 31,2003.


contd.. This translates into an estimated 11.6 million very poor families brought within the fold of formal banking services. About 90 percent of groups linked with banks are exclusive women groups Cumulative disbursement of bank loans to these SHGs stood at Rs. 2048.7 crore with an average loan of Rs. 28,560 per SHG [1]


contd.. [1] Kamesan, Vepa (2003), “ Indian Economic Scenario – yesterday – today – tomorrow. Inaugural Address at seminar on Banking – Agriculture – Industry – IT- New Hopes – New challenges organized by Telugu Vaibhavam at Hyderabad, Sep. 16


contd.. The success of Poverty alleviation programmes through micro- credit delivery actually depends on variety of other factors, like level of education, social customs, family planning, health, medical services and environment technology. Among these education acquires the top rank and therefore government should use DE technique to impart knowledge at grass root level. The distance education technique is women friendly. There are many success stories in some states of the Indian Union.

Strategy of Women Empowerment :

Strategy of Women Empowerment In view of low literacy rate of women and the gigantic task of educating rural women a suitable strategy will have to be planned. The major task is to identify the areas where these groups in fact, are facing problems because at this stage only the problem solving adult learning technique will attract these rural poors to improve their working and income.

The women empowerment depends upon the following factors: :

The women empowerment depends upon the following factors : Level of education, hard work Social custom Family planning, small family Health, medical services, cleanliness Environment, tree growing, kitchen gardening. Various case studies show that there is a positive correlation between credit availability and empowerment of women.


contd.. The members of SHGs are mainly illiterate and do not have access to formal education. In a study it was reported that the members of the Groups were not fully literate and were not able to read and write. Many are now able to append their signatures perhaps an outcome of the government-sponsored literacy programme and the compulsion to affix signature on several occasions as members of SHGs.


contd.. The handicap of literacy would be a hurdle for achieving many desired results. For example they will be unable to follow the accounts maintained by the group and hence remain ignorant about the amount pooled individually and in the group, and would be unable to draft an application to represent their case.


contd.. It is therefore essential to provide them education through especially designed modules through distance education that are directly useful as a member of SHG. The members of SHGs are mainly illiterate and do not have access to formal education. Distance Education is Women Friendly


contd.. At this stage women do not need school or University Certificate, Diploma or Formal Degrees. They need improvement in their professional skills and solving their day-to-day problems in the working and functioning of SHGs. They should be explained the advantage of group based strategies in poverty alleviation


contd.. Importance of savings and opening bank account, marketing of products, timely repayment and repeat loaning. It is important to explain that she is not alone and that such problems are being faced universally. Only by self-help they may fight against their misfortune and improve upon the fate of their family and children.


Contd.. All these problems, opportunities and chances can be explained the women through short duration training module delivered at their doorstep or work place. At the initial stage we may face certain problems and resistance from the participants if we demand some extra time and money. It is therefore suggested that the benefits should be linked with the DE modules and subsidies should be in the form of distance education and not cash.

Education Empowers Women   :

Education Empowers Women It is also observed that open education at present is mainly catering to the needs of elites in the urban areas and it has to make in roads in rural areas where India lives. . In rural areas women are totally dependent on men, as they do not have economic power to spend.


contd.. The historical relationships with their husbands can be seen as influenced by historical factors that shape the social structures of how they are subordinated. It has been observed in several research studies that women do experience a double day, as they return to study combined with their domestic roles.


contd.. The Policy planners must think to integrate the economic benefits with education. I suggest the Differential Rate of Interest (DIR) for women doing any Course through Open schools or any other mode of Open and Flexible learning.


contd.. Women Education is sometimes also perceived as a threat by their husbands. Studying is seen as changing the identity of the partner from being subservient and domesticated (Morgan 1995: 321) [1] [1] Morgan, A. (1995) ‘ Adult change and development: learning and peoples’ lives’ in D.Sewart (ed.) One World Many Voices: quality in open and Distance learning, Milton Keynes: ICDE, and the Open University.


contd.. It has been noted that education as such serves to empower women. This may be on the most basic level through literacy programmes or on more advance levels through university study and even Ph. D. programmes.


contd.. A UNICEF study (1998) on Violence against women in South East Asia concluded that compulsory schooling for all girls would be a long-term measure to reduce violence against women by providing them qualifications as the basis for getting a job which in turn will enable them to earn a their own income and improve their status.


contd.. Thus the SHGs should in-fact also be converted in to Self Help Study Groups that will give them not only enhanced income but also enhanced esteem and self confidence to do something meaningful for the society as a whole. They should realize that they are not the isolated unproductive but important wheel for the smooth running of the society. The economic incentives and effective NGOs participation will definitely make the women empowerment a reality from a distant dream at present.


Contd.. There are instances where cash subsidies were taken away forcefully by male, members in the family for liquor consumption and gambling and made no significant impact in the society. But education is such a type of subsidy that cannot be robbed by male members in the family. Secondly educated mother will further educate her children and thus will help in mitigating the curse of illiteracy and poverty from the society.

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