Women Leadership v1
Self Help Groups
Female literacy rate in rural India stands at an abysmal 62%1. Financial literacy and moreover, financial independence among rural women is unimaginably low. Many are not empowered enough to access nearby banks for financial assistance, which forces them to take out loans from moneylenders, often at extravagant interest rates. Social barriers of being a full time homemaker and alcoholism among men in family aggravate this issue of financial dependence, leading the rural families into loan traps.
Self-Help Groups (SHGs) provide easy access to funds at a local level that can support families to start small scale businesses, meet educational expenses for their children, or buy necessities for household use. Prabodhini provides inspiration, training, and support to SHGs in over 300 villages. Women are encouraged to form small groups of 10 to 20 local women. Group members start collecting periodical savings in a common fund. In each meeting, one group member receives a loan based on her business plan. Prabodhini also trains these groups in improving financial literacy, maintaining accounts, and streamlining loan recovery processes. Simple structure and trust among the members remain major reasons for program success.
Location: Haveli, Bhor, and Velhe divisions of Pune district, Maharashtra, India
Organizers: Department of Rural Women Empowerment
Women SHG program has achieved phenomenal success in the last twenty years. Prabodhini runs 322 SHGs in 60 different villages which have over 5500 members in total. In 2018, more than 2500 women benefited from this program. Apart from becoming change agents in their own families, these women have witnessed a multitude of qualitative changes in their personalities and their villages. Most have successfully supported their children’s education and have started new micro-businesses. Many have become SHG leaders and now replicating the changes in others’ lives. Breaking the stereotypes of rural leadership, some have even contested elections and are now leading their own villages as a Sarpanch of the village head. SHG’s social networks have changed women’s self-perceptions and strengthened their confidence to fight their problems and build their future.
Prabodhini is also leveraging these local networks to conduct other projects in education, health, and water source development, all leading to a catalytic rural development. Non-formal education centers in 17 villages engage local children in grades 1 to 7 in reading clubs, sports, co-curricular development.
1As per the NSS 71st Round: Education in India report of 2014 issued by the Government of India’s Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation
Currently, a majority of the female workforce in rural India is unskilled. Even after basic education and training, it is difficult for them to sustain a job because of reasons such as- lack of necessary and specific skills, gender discrimination, family issues, early marriages & traditional protocols that prohibit them from standing independently in their career path on par with men, also, many women are paid less compared to men. Women's safety being the concern in several factory jobs, restricts the path for many women workers and pulls them back to household chores. Empowering women through skill-building programs gives them more opportunities to earn their living and become self-reliant, helps them to switch from manual labourers to desk job.
To address this issue and make women independent by enhancing their skills, Jnana Prabodhini has started conducting skill development and self-employment workshops on several employment areas including sewing, mehendi, food production and sales, creating and selling handbags, jewellery, nursing, beauty parlour courses. Prabodhini helps them getting the right resources in order to develop new skills and turning those into employment opportunities. After the success of skills development programs, Prabodhini also conducts regular group meetings for increasing awareness of new business opportunities, handling common issues across different sectors and incorporating new ideas into existing businesses. The table below represents some of the workshops and no. of participants from different villages for one of such activities.
The training and skill development workshops have played a significant role in these women’s lives. One of the programs with 40 workshops resulted in a profit of about 2.5 Lakhs, after the product sales, that included the contribution of 121 women from 11 villages. New trainers were built in the process, from the same group, to continue running the activities more efficiently. Most of these women have captured the market of sewing, mehendi, home made food production and sales, creating and selling handbags, jewellery, nursing , beauty parlour, etc. in respective village areas. They have started their small business units with good level of income. Prabodhini has encouraged these women to become independent and self-sustaining, by successfully organizing and implementing the skills development workshops at various villages.