represent in the development of a community. These organizations devote significant efforts toforming groups and building their capacities. Catholic Relief Services (
: CRS) aloneestimated in September 2004 that its network of 2,500 partners across India is working withapproximately 30,700 SHGs, which represent at a minimum 430,000 members. In addition,government support to SHGs over the past decade has emphasized progressive outreach to vastnumbers of poor, rural women across India. The National Bank for Agriculture and RuralDevelopment (
has a mandate to support SHG members and link them torural banks and appropriate financial services.Though much can be said of the spontaneous development of SHGs and their abilities to self-manage and reach out to other poor women and build new SHGs, a variety of limitations existfor the SHG support organizations, the animators, and SHG members:
1. Many SHG support organizations can lack internal capacity or appropriate resources toeffectively and efficiently support their SHGs.
Many SHG support organizations are located inremote, hard-to-reach areas. However, the tools and training available for SHGs in India areoften calibrated to classroom-educated, rural development workers. Consequently, organizationsare unable to hire trained field staff to work with SHGs. Yet, even qualified field staff faceresource deficits as these formal tools and methods are often complex and less effective andefficient in the SHG context.Because of this reality, CRS also wanted to build the capacity of the SHGs, irrespective of theleaders and support organizations, to enable them to support themselves and help build other SHGs (thus, enabling a “ripple effect”).
2. Animators lack resources and training to be effective service delivery mechanisms.
Becausefield staff may not be adequately prepared to work with SHGs, they can often be an obstacle toSHG success. In assessments conducted by CRS, they discovered that some animators have been gatekeepers of information and that they micromanage their SHG groups’ activities. Muchof this can be explained by the SHG’s over-reliance on the animator, but the animator may nothave been providing the SHG with opportunities for growth and gaining confidence.
3. SHG members often become over-reliant on the SHG support organization or the animatorsthat support their groups. Consequently, the underlying rationale for SHG— learning to think and act for oneself—is challenged.
Additionally, well-meaning animators who have a lot of community trust can often put their groups at financial risk by identifying incorrect businessopportunities for their SHGs. As one animator put it, “the animator is king” because of his/her knowledge and skill base compared to that of the SHG members. For example, some animatorshave been able to convince SHG groups to commit all of their efforts and resources in one product, and when that product fails, the SHG is left with failure and debt. Finally, becauseanimators feel the need to micromanage their groups or feel the need to be deeply involved inSHG activities, they exhaust their time with few SHGs, limiting their breadth of outreach toother possible SHGs. In turn, the SHG support organizations also find themselves playing amuch larger role in the development of a group than originally anticipated. As a result, the cost
NABARD, while an apex financial institution, is part of the Indian Government. It coordinates the development of SHG-bank linkages with state-owned rural and cooperative banks across the country.