Source: Self Help Groups (SHGs)
Women make up one half of the world’s human capital and yet women continue to be dependent on men as regards control and access to resources and decision making. Thus, empowering and educating girls and women and leveraging their talent and leadership fully in the global economy, politics, and society emerges as a development imperative.
Development experts and policy analysts have claimed that empowering women and girls is quintessential to promoting quick and equitable economic growth and long-term stability. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which all 193 UN member states endorsed, included promoting gender equality and empowering women as its Goal 3.
According to the MDG Report 2012 – “Assessing the Progress in Africa towards the MDGs,” the consequences to society of not investing in gender equality and female empowerment can be heavy.
Over one third of the world’s poor reside in Africa and though over the last century African countries have made significant strides in promoting gender equity, the equality in society in terms of access and control over resources, social, economic and political are yet to be achieved.
|Women knitting. Photo by SHGs|
While there has been notable success in some countries in achieving equality in primary education, a lot needs to be done to enhance livelihood options and provide space for women in political decision-making.
In politics, Africa needs to move beyond women’s participation to improving their capacity for contributing to development discussions and outcomes. In India too, the gender divide especially in rural areas, is quite intense and women are often subjected to various kinds of discrimination and denial of rights.
Women bear a disproportionate brunt of poverty, which forces them into increasing drudgery, longer hours of work under conditions of poor nutrition, food insecurity and falling health. The entrenched socio economic prejudices results in progressive marginalisation of women’s role in household, neighbourhood and in the community.
However, despite these limitations, India has achieved some noteworthy success in women empowerment and poverty reduction. Over the years, various efforts have been made by many Government and Non-Government Organizations to promote women empowerment especially in rural areas.
One of the important steps in the direction was the formation of Self Help Groups (SHGs). Linkage between SHGs and microfinance institutions further galvanized the process. By the end of year 2000, microfinance services had reached to over 79 million poor, especially women.
Microfinance Institutions have served as an instrument for empowerment to SHGs formed by poor women by extending credit facility, encouraging savings by the groups and promoting social networking and involvement.
SHGs have played a major role in poverty alleviation in many countries. More equitable access to assets and services – land, water, credit, banking and financial services strengthens women’s rights and promotes economic growth. This would go a long way in ensuring sustainable development.
You can download a copy of the third edition of SHGs here