Women self-help groups: Funding alone does not work; the government needs to listen in

Synopsis: Women-run SHGs form the backbone of our country. In order to help them to sustain for a long period, government needs to frame proper policy and provide ecosystem to the SHGs other than providing funding to them. As a whole, institutional support is needed to fully exploit their potential. 

Introduction 

Women-run SHGs form the backbone of our country. During the pandemic, they manufactured essential medical products such as masks, sanitisers, protective equipment and ran community kitchens, provided financial support to the vulnerable and communities.

The World Bank gave $750 million in financial support to National Rural Livelihoods Mission whose aim is to eradicate poverty in India. 

A lot more needs to be done.

How SHGs sustained during COVID-19 pandemic? 

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic derailed several growth initiatives in India. Despite COVID-19-induced difficulties and socio-political pressure, women-run SHGs successfully established social well-being in their communities. 

Financial initiatives: The government of India announced financial support to over 0.4 million under the Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) programme. The central government has provided financial support to Micro Food Processing Enterprises (PMFME) and Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) as well.

Government initiatives have also encouraged women citizens to have a bank account, which has made it easier to procure loans for SHGs. SHGs, in turn, have shown satisfactory results by bringing down banks’ non-performing assets. 

What are the challenges faced by the women-SHGs? 

Despite scopes and capability, some SHGs are unable to develop into full-fledged organisations because of the following reasons: 

i). Lack of understanding about core values of business 

ii). A loss of interest in doing business due to socio-cultural pressure 

iii). Poor presentation skills 

iv). Zero knowledge transfer 

v). Poor financial knowledge 

vi). Feeble management framework 

vii). Lack of understanding on importance of United-Nations mandated Sustainable Development Goals 

viii). Poor marketing and promotional skills 

How we can alleviate the problems faced by the SHG? 

i). Large-scale projects should be implemented 

ii). The government should work on creating a gender-neutral ecosystem for women entrepreneurs, develop adequate infrastructure, provide training and destroy red-tapism. 

iii). Specialised training should be given on climate change, clean energy, disaster management, water, etc 

iv). Women SHG members should be inspired to explore other sectors as agriculture, handicrafts, renewables, watershed development, alternative tourism, finance, education 

v). CSR support, international funding, multilateral bank support should be given to SHGs so that they can shape themselves into a corporate entity 

vi). Innovative ideas should be incubated by the top-most institutes of India 

vii). A dedicated grievance resolving mechanism should be set up 

viii). Assessment and livelihood support plan will help stakeholders to support women SHGs 

ix). Integrated common facility centre will help promote activities  

Source: This post is based on the article “Women self-help groups: Funding alone does not work; the government needs to listen in” published in the Down to earth on 13th September 2021.

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