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Self-Help Groups (SHGs) for Women Empowerment
8/7/2020 12:07:56 AM

Dr.Banarsi Lal and Dr. Sheetal Badyal

Sex ratio in Jammu and Kashmir is 889 i.e. there are only 889 females per 1000 males much below the national average of 940 females per 1000 males. The economy of Jammu and Kashmir has been affected due to conflict from the last 30 years. Disturbance in J&K has deeply affected people’s employment, their attitude, behaviour, habits, health etc. The women of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered a lot especially after 80s. Women can contribute significantly to the economy of this Union Territory. During COVID-19 women have proved their vital contribution for the society. They took a lead role in sustaining the economy of J&K. Women have made lakhs of masks during COVID-19 and thus contributed immensely to fight against the pandemic. They are lending the helping hand to the J&K government to combat the lethal virus. Women are the key agents for the society development. Government have launched a number of state and centrally sponsored schemes in J&K from time to time for the upliftment of women. It has been observed that poor people have innate capabilities and make strenuous efforts to come out from poverty. Self-Help Groups (SHGs) especially for women help to start entrepreneurial activities and thus can help to eradicate the poverty. Formation of Self-Help Groups can be an effective tool for the women empowerment in the J&K. With the help of Self-Help Groups women can be trained for different kinds of skills under different programmes and schemes by the various organizations which further can help them to improve their socio-economic status. The concept of women’s empowerment is the result of several important critiques, debates and discussions generated by the women’s movement across the globe, especially by the third world countries.
Women constitute around half of population in the social system but still there is a lot of gender discrimination in every sphere of life. Poverty and gender discrimination threaten the well-being of women, deny their choice for education and training, restrict them for their participation in different programmes, curtail political and economic rights etc.
Even in the present era women are given secondary importance in many sections of society. Right from beginning of her life restrictions are imposed and she is prohibited to express herself properly. It has been observed that large percentage of population of women is unemployed, have poor socio-economic status, least decision making, lack education and awareness on different developmental aspects and so on. So, there is dire need to empower the women through different kinds of schemes or programmes launched by different governmental and non-government organizations. Self-Help Group (SHG) is a small, economically homogenous and affinity based group of people who decide to save and contribute to a common fund to be lent to its members as per the group decisions. SHGs are a way to involve rural men and women actively in the developmental process by increasing the income, technical skills, mutual help, address constraints etc. The agenda of SHGs is ‘Empowerment’ and shift from dormant masses of the rural women to vibrant masses by bringing more income in their hands so that they can lead a better social life. Self Help Groups (SHGs) formation in J&K especially in hilly areas can assist in the women’s empowerment. There can be new avenues for women SHGs in J&K especially in value addition in agriculture, Kadaknath (poultry) farming, pashmina weaving, handicrafts, milk processing etc. Their capacity building can generate employment in the rural areas of J&K. The origin of Self-Help Groups is the brain child of Economics Prof. Mohammad Yunus of Chittagong University who founded Gramin Bank of Bangladesh in the year 1976.This was exclusively established for the poor section of the society. The Self-Help Group movement is a silent revolution to uplift the poor people across the globe. World Micro Credit Summit was held at Washington in 1997, converged the developed and developing countries of the world to overcome the serious problem of poverty by using micro credit as a tool to empower the poor section of the society. The major objectives of SHGs are :-( 1) To inculcate the habit of saving and banking among the rural women. (2) To develop credibility among the rural women and the bankers. (3) To develop group activity so that women can start the entrepreneurships.
There is no doubt that the women of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered a lot during the last 30 years. SHGs formation can be one of the important options to assist these women to come out from economic distress. For this purpose, government has launched several state and centrally sponsored schemes/programmes for the upliftment of women. Some of these are as: (1) Women belonging to minority community viz, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians etc. are being financed under the national minorities’ development and finance corporation.( 2) Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) scheme was introduced in 1999 with the major objective of developing micro enterprise in rural areas, thereby developing the potentials of rural poor who belong to below poverty line, financial assistance both in the form of loan and subsidy is provided to the beneficiaries, both individuals as well as Self-Help Groups so that they can set up their own entrepreneurships. As per the reports, the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana scheme is implemented in all the districts of Jammu and Kashmir. This scheme mainly emphasis on the formation of women’s Self-Help Groups. (3) Reports signify that Jammu and Kashmir women’s development corporation (JKWDC) has put forth various socio-economic schemes for the upliftment of women belonging to minorities, backward and other classes.( 4) Various social welfare departments also implement various schemes for the women. Presently, there are around 150 social welfare centers which impart different kinds of training to the women so that they can start their entrepreneurships. The Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) under SKUAST-J, SKUAST-K and CITH in J&K impart need based farmers and vocational trainings to the women and the trained women start the entrepreneurships in agriculture and allied sectors. These KVKs assist in the formation, management and strengthening of SHGs. The size of an ideal Self-Help Group should be of 10 to 20 members. An informal group should not have more than 20 members and the group members should have homogeneity in their socio-economic status. It has been observed that the members in a big group do not actively participate and the chances of conflict also increase. In hilly district Reasi of J&K women Self-Help Groups on milk processing, food processing, parshad making bracelets making etc. are working excellently. These groups are assisted by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Reasi, banks, administration and NGOs. The successful SHGs can be a source of inspiration for the other people who want to earn a substantial income for the upliftment of their socio-economic status. The Self-Help Groups can be an effective technique for women empowerment in J&K. The passion towards the objectives of group is needed among the group members. In order to run the SHGs smoothly there is a need of support from the heads of the family of group members, local people and external organizations. Keeping unemployment in view in J&K, the SHG concept has immense scope in J&K. Developmental and psychological confidence need to be developed among the women SHGs in J&K.
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