People’s Institution Building
Self help Groups, SHG’s they are generally called, represent a small well-coordinated group of people, either women or men with shared interests and similar background. These groups are formed in all target communities with intentions of initiation of developmental activities in the target area, motivation of the different members of the community towards development and to sustain the developmental activities in the long run, even in the absence of external agencies.
SHG’s are formed after a few interactions with the community. People are not very keen in joining these groups initially, as they don’t have a clear idea of organizations operations or the importance of collectivism. But as no developmental activity can be carried out without the involvement of people, formation of SHG’s is immediately done after some rapport building with the local community.
RDWS experience indicates that women are more responsive to the organization’s plans than men. This resulted in more SHG’s of women being formed in the 20 target villages. The Village Women Animators should make sure that the SHG’s are as apolitical as possible. The already existing differences in the community should not be reflected in SHG’s in anyway.
Once the SHG has been constituted, it should be encouraged to nominate two persons to manage its affairs. This process should be allowed to be managed by the SHG as far as possible, so that only the willing and acceptable may emerge as the co-ordinators of the SHG. However, Village Women Animators will have to ensure that the method of choosing the leadership should be by consensus building rather than a formal or structured approach. This will ensure unity in the SHG and allow its smooth functioning.
After the SHG’s are formed, in different trainings on thrift, savings, primary health care, vermiculture, disaster preparedness can be imparted to the group members. The members of the group can get benefited by their own contributions, especially through thrift and savings. These SHG members can help the organization in undertaking developmental activities for the benefit of the entire community. They can also motivate other members of the community towards developmental initiatives.
The Village Women Animators will also ensure that the various SHG’s formed in the same village are cohesive and work in co-ordination for the development of whole village instead of in fighting.
The target villagers need to invest to earn their livelihood. But normally, the need for investment follows the off season. In the off-season, the people spend all their savings. As a result of this, they are left with no money when they need the most. The money lenders and the middlemen exploit the situation to their advantage. They lend money high rates of interest as high as Rs. 5/- per Rs.100/- per month. With other option available, the villagers borrow money from these lenders and pulled into the debt trap.
RDWS realized that the financial independence of the villagers is very important to prevent their exploitation and to facilitate their overall development. With this noble intention, RDWS has initiated thrift and savings in its target villages. Wherever the Government sponsored DWACRA Groups are there, the organization has extended its support by emphasizing the importance of self-reliance, savings and maintaining proper records.
In other places where the Govt. schemes are non-existent, RDWS has encouraged people, espacilly women, to form a savings group (SHG) of about 10-15 members. These members of the group save about Rs. 30/- a month. The small regular savings does initiated will soon resulted in a collective fund, which can provide money to the members at the time of their need.
This inculcated the habit of saving in the villagers. Maintaining proper records was taught to the members. RDWS and some voluntary organizations provided matching grants to the SHGs, which are operating well.
Each SHG will have a President and Treasurer, who are generally selected by consensus. Anyone who needs money can approach the president. She will call a meeting of the SHG members, who will decide whether loan is to be given and loan amount. The SHG members pre decide the rate of interest for all the loans. The borrowers from the collective fund have to repay the interest and the principle component apart from payment of regular savings. Proper record of minutes of the meeting is maintained.
RDWS has also helped the SHG’s in opening accounts with the nationalized banks. The banks have also agreed to provide loans to the SHG’s based on their past performance. This concept has gained good acceptance in the target communities and is expected to yield good results in the near future as the consolidated fund amount increases. However, the members of the SHG tend to have some expectations from the Govt./Organization. Though they helped in the beginning to familiarize the concept, the SHG’s should strive to be financially independent and every member should feel responsible for timely payment of interest and monthly savings.
This year we had been successfully initiated 60 SHG’s in 20 of our target villages wherein 720 women were become members by saving an amount of Rs.30/- each at every month. This money was rotated among its members. RDWS imparting several trainings on health care, book keeping etc., we have recommended few groups for government subsidized support.
Besides of formation and strengthening of SHG’s with women, RDWS has also created awareness camps for empowering women through perception of their role in the economy and decision-making. This can be through training that builds an understanding of the potential and the role of women. General awareness was created to ensure gender sensitization, such awareness training is to be provided in the areas like,