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WomenEmpowermentThoroughSelfHelpGroups-ACaseStudyAnantaBasudevSahu*andSandhyaRaniDas**AbstractThepresentstudyisanattempttoanalysetheroleandperformanceofSHGsinpromotingwomen'sempowermentinGajapatiDistrictofOrissa.ThebroadobjectiveofthestudyistoanalysestheoperatingsystemofSHGsformobilizationofsaving,deliveryofcredittotheneedy,managementofgroupfunds,repaymentofloans,inbuildingupleadership,establishinglinkagewithbanksandexaminethesocialbenefitsderivedbythemembers.Inordertocollectandgatherprimarydata,fieldobservationandstructuredquestionnairesurveymethodswereemployed.Inaddition,informationwasalsocollectedthroughdiscussionsandinterviewswithlocalNGOsandgovernment'sgrassrootslevelworkers.Thereare281SHGsworkinginGajapatidistrict.Heretheresearcherhaschosen10SHGsfromeachblockofthedistrict.Intotalthestudycovers50SHGswith800members.ThestudyrevealsthatSHGshadsetanewagendaforfinancialintermediationbybanksintheformofmicro-credit.BytheformationofSHGs,creditsaredemandedforvariouspurposes(domestic,health,festivals,repaymentofolddebts,investment,etc.).Similarlydifferenteconomicactivities(collection,processingandmarketingofminorforestproducts,individualbusiness,goatery,dairyetc.)areundertakenbytheSHGmembersafterjoiningthegroup.Habitsofsavings,economicindependence,selfconfidence,socialcohesion,assetownership,freedomfromdebt,additionalemployment,etc.benefitsarederivedbytheSHGmembers.Thus,SHGshaveservedthecauseofwomenempowerment,socialsolidarityandsocio-economicbettermentofthepoorfortheirconsolidation.IntroductionTheconceptofempowermentisdefinedastheprocessbywhichwomentakecontrolandownershipoftheirchoicesThecoreelementsofempowermenthavebeendefinedasagency(theabilitytodefineone
’s
goalsandactuponthem),awarenessofgenderedpowerstructures,self-esteem,andself-confidence(Kabeer,2001).Empowermentcantakeplaceatahierarchyofdifferentlevels–individual,household,communityandsocietal–andisfacilitatedbyprovidingencouragingfactors(e.g.exposuretonewactivities,whichcanbuildcapacities)andremovinginhibitingfactors(e.g.lackofresourcesandskills).InthisconnectionMicro-financewithSelfHelpGroupsplayaneffectiveroleforpromotingwomenempowerment.Itisnotonlyanefficienttooltofightagainstpoverty,butalsoasameansofpromotingtheempowermentofthemostmarginalizedsectionsofthepopulation,especiallywomen.AccordingtoEllieBoschitisjustoldwineinanewbottle(Bosch,2002).Itconsistsofagroupofpeopleofthreetoeightpersonsontheconditionthateachofthemwouldbeassumingresponsibilityforthedevelopmentofall.MicroFinanceinstitutionstartedinIndiain1980sthroughSelfHelpGroups(SHGs)model.ItistheGrameenreplicationmodelofBangladesh.Thereisnearly3,00,000SHGsworkingwholeoverIndia.ItistruethattheconceptofmicrofinanceisyettospreaditswingsalloverIndia,butattherateinwhichitisexpandingitsbranches,verysoonitwouldbereachingatthedoorstepsofthepoorhouses.ThemostsuccessfulregionformicrofinanceistheSouthernpartofIndia;AndhraPradeshhasbecometheexamplefortheotherstatesinthiscase.Thepresentstudyisanattemptinthisdirectiontoanalysetheimpactofmicro-creditonpoorwomeninGajapatidistrictofOrissa.BriefProfileoftheStudyArea
 
GajapatidistrictislocatedinthesouthernpartofOrissa.ThedistrictofGajapatiwasformedonthebasisof1981census,takingtheoldParalakhemundiSubdivisionofGanjamdistrictandthelowestlevelunitsforrecognitionofGanjamintoGanjamandGajapatidistricts.ThedistrictofGajapaticomprisesofonesubdivision,threetahasilsandsevenC.D.Blocks,twotowns,oneMunicipality,oneNAC,onehundredandsixPanchayatsandfourteenhundredsixtyinhabitedvillages.ThisisoneofthebackwarddistrictsofOrissa.ItisapartofsotosayKBKdistrictsknownforunderdevelopmentandstarvationdeaths.Thisisatribaldominateddistrict.About30percentoftheinhabitantsaretribal.Thoughtheycomprise30percentoutofthetotalpopulation,theyarescatteredoveralltheterritoriesofthedistrict.Itisneedlesstosaythattribalsareunderdevelopedandmalnourished.SotheeconomyofGajapatidistrictisreflectedthesamenakedpicture.Table–1.1TotalPopulation,RuralandUrbanPopulationbySexinDifferentBlocksandUrbanAreasofGajapatiDistrictS.No. Block/Urban Geographicalareasq/km Male Female Total SexRatio1 Gumma 1048.94 31484 33801 65285 931.45172 Kasinagar 477.99 24022 24603 48625 976.3853 Mohana 655.1 56964 58089 115053 980.63324 Nuagada 439.69 22761 24147 46908 942.60165 Gosani 494.17 33986 34822 68808 975.99226 R.Udayagiri 466.59 27356 27153 54509 1007.4767 Rayagada 961.51 31308 33423 64731 936.7202Urban1 Kasinagar 10.36 4780 5002 9782 955.61782 Parlakhemundi(M) 3.63 21748 21243 42991 1023.773ThepopulationoftheGajapatidistrictintheyear2001was518,448(Table1.1).Theruralpopulationwas465,675andurbanpopulationwas52,873.Itoccupies2.78percentofthetotallandareaofOrissa.In1991censustherewere40,000inhabitantsbelongingtoScheduledCastesand218,000belongingtoScheduledTribes.Thesexratiowasfoundtobe1031femalesper1000malesasshowninTable4.1.ThisisduetolargenumberofmobilityofmaleworkersintotheneighbouringstateslikeAndhraPradeshandMadhyaPradesh.ThedensityofpopulationofGajapatidistrictwas120.TheliteracyrateofGajapatidistrictwas41.73percentin2001census.Outofwhich55.14percentmalesand28.91percentarefemales.TheliteracyrateofScheduledCastesandScheduledTribeswere21.74%and15.88percentrespectively(DistrictStatisticalHandbook,2001).Theworkforceofthedistrictasobtainedfrom2001censuswere276,000,outofwhich180,000weremainworkers,96,000weremarginalworkers,91,000werecultivatorsand125,000wereagriculturallabourers.About16.50percentemploymentisgeneratedunderSGRY,outofwhich4.87percentwereSCs,8.85percentwereSTsand2.78percentwereOBCs.Thereare2819groupsworkingthroughoutthedistrictofGajapatiandthenumberofwomenparticipantswas37,032.Outofthem959groupsareworkingunderNGOs,1821groupsareworkingundertheICDS(IntegratedChildDevelopmentSchemes),22inBlockleveland80groupsareworkingindependently.ReviewofLiteratureFewstudiesareavailableonSHGandmicro-financeandwomenempowerment.Theresearcherhastriedtoreviewthefollowing:Osman(2000)inhisarticleremarkedthatmicro-financeschemesalonecannotalleviatepoverty.Thebattlefortotaleradicationofpovertyrequirescombiningmicro-financeschemeswithparallel,complementaryprogrammesaddressingthesocialandculturaldimensionsofwant,privation,impoverishmentanddispossession.Kapur(2001)inherstudytriedtodiscuss,analyseandanswerthechallengingquestionsastowhydespitealltheeffortsandprogressmade,stillth
 
erecontinuestobesomuchofgenderdiscriminationandwhatstrategies,actionsandmeasurestobeundertakentoachievetheexpectedgoalofempowerment.Sheopinedthatwomen
’s
empowermentismuchmorelikelytobeachievedifwomenhavetotalcontrolovertheirownorganisations,whichtheycansustainbothfinanciallyandmanageriallywithoutdirectdependenceonothers.Pattanaik(2003)inherstudyrevealsthatSHGsarecontinuouslystrivingforabetterfuturefortribalwomenasparticipants,decision-makersandbeneficiariesinthedomestic,economic,socialandculturalspheresoflife.Butduetocertainconstraintslikegenderinequality,exploitation,womentortureforwhichvariousSelfHelpGroupsarenotorganisedproperlyandeffectively.Malhotra(2004)inherbookhasexaminedhowwomenentrepreneursaffecttheglobaleconomy,whywomenstartbusiness,howwomen
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businessassociationspromoteentrepreneurs,andtowhatextentwomencontributetointernationaltrade.Itexplorespotentialofmicro-financeprogrammesforempoweringandemployingwomenandalsodiscussestheopportunitiesandchallengesofusingmicro-financetotacklethefeminisationofpoverty.Accordingtoher,themicro-financeprogrammesareaimedtoincreasewomen
’s
incomelevelsandcontroloverincomeleadingtogreaterlevelsofeconomicindependence.Theyenablewomen
’s
accesstonetworksandmarkets,accesstoinformationandpossibilitiesfordevelopmentofothersocialandpoliticalrole.Theyalsoenhanceperceptionsofwomen
’s
contributiontohouseholdincomeandfamilywelfare,increasingwomen
’s
participationinhouseholddecisionsaboutexpenditureandotherissuesleadingtogreaterexpenditureonwomen
’s
welfare.Narasaiah(2004)inherstudymentionedthatthechangeinwomen
’s
contributiontosocietyisoneofthestrikingphenomenaofthelatetwentiethcentury.Accordingtohimmicro-creditplaysanimportantroleinempoweringwomen.Givingwomentheopportunitytorealisetheirpotentialinallspheresofsocietyisincreasinglyimportant.Cheston&Kuhn(2004)intheirstudyconcludedthatmicro-financeprogrammeshavebeenverysuccessfulinreachingwomen.Thisgivesmicro-financeinstitutionsanextraordinaryopportunitytoactintentionallytoempowerpoorwomenandtominimisethepotentiallynegativeimpactssomewomenexperiences.Manimekalai(2004)inhisarticlecommentedthattoruntheincomegeneratingactivitiessuccessfullytheSHGsmustgetthehelpofNGOs.Thebankofficialsshouldcounselandguidethewomeninselectingandimplementingprofitableincomegeneratingactivities.HeremarkedthattheformationofSHGshaveboostedtheself-imageandconfidenceofruralwomen.SahuandTripathy(2005)intheireditedbookviewsthat70percentofworld
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poorarewomen.Accesstopoortobankingservicesisimportantnotonlyforpovertyalleviationbutalsoforoptimisingtheircontributiontothegrowthofregionalaswellasthenationaleconomy.SelfHelpGroups(SHGs)haveemergedasthemostvitalinstrumentintheprocessofparticipatorydevelopmentandwomenempowerment.Theruralwomenarethemarginalizedgroupsinthesocietybecauseofsocio-economicconstraints.Theyremainbackwardandlowerpositionofthesocialhierarchicalladder.TheycanliftthemselvesfromthemorassofpovertyandstagnationthroughmicrofinanceandformationofSelf-HelpGroups.DasGupta(2005)inhisarticlecommentedthataparadigmshiftisrequiredfrom“financialsectorreform”to“micro-financereform”.Whiletheprioritysectorneedstobemadelean,mandatorymicrocreditmustbemonitoredrigorously.Simultaneouslyspaceandscopehavetobeproperlydesignedforprovidingcompetitiveenvironmenttomicro-financeservices.ExtensivedatabaseneedstobecreatedbytheRBIforunderstandingmicro-finance.Sinha(2005)inhisstudyhasobservedthatmicro-financeismakingasignificantcontributiontoboththesavingsandborrowingofthepoorinthecountry.Accordingtohimthemainuseofmicro-creditisfordirectinvestment.Thereisofcoursesomefungibility,dependingonhouseholdcreditrequirementsatthetimeofloandisbursement.Somestudiesrevealthatmicro-financeprogrammeshavehadpositiveaswellasnegativeimpactsonwomen.Someresearchershavequestionedhowfarmicro-financebenefitswomen(GoetzandSenGupta,1996).Somearguethatmicro-financeprogrammesdiverttheattentionofwomenfromothermoreeffectivestrategiesforempowerment(Ebdon,1995),andtheattentionandtheresourcesofdonorsfromalternative,andpossiblymoreeffectivemeansofalleviatingpoverty(Rogaly,1996).Insomecaseswomen
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increasedautonomyhasbeentemporary.Itonlybenefitswomenwhoar

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