Women Self Help Groups: Boosting the Silent Economic Revolution with the Annual Budget 2018 | Ekta shakti foundation

One woman can do anything. And when women come together, they can do everything. With this belief emerged the women self help groups, which have today brought increased participation of women in the economy. The Government’s Annual Budget (2018–2019) was a great news for the women of India. The increase in loans form Rs. 42,500 crore in 2018 to Rs. 75,000 crore in 2019 for women self help groups has proved that the nation will
wholeheartedly support in making them more self-reliant economically.

From advertising agencies and start-ups to schools and restaurants, we do see women employed everywhere. However, India’s 108th rank in World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index 2017 tells us that the economy had been losing women’s participation, primarily due to low wages. Every time the nation is hit with unemployment, women seem to suffer the most. It is worth noticing that in 2017, while jobs for men rose by 0.9 million, 2.4 million women lost their work.

One must not misinterpret that the work of 2.4 million women could be done by 0.9 million men. Rather, this observation shows the severity of the gender gap. What is worth questioning is that, consider women and men work at similar positions and generate similar outputs, do employers even then use the same amount of funds to pay them? Along with gender bias, huge differences in salaries may not encourage women to work up to their
fullest potential, thus pulling down their productivity.

With 0.9 million women losing their jobs, 2.4 million men gained employment. Sadly, unemployment not only affects these women’s economic situation, but adversely affects their health as well. Their condition revolves in a loop that never fails to break. However much Indian women work, they are paid less so they spend less on their health and hygiene. Low energy allows them to give less output. And eventually, they end up losing their jobs. They may choose to seek employment again but this will only fetch them reduced wages.

Perhaps, their unlikely health due to disappointing income is the reason why India has only 27% women engaged in the labour force.

The indication that their position is getting better is still nowhere to be found. Despite these discouraging circumstances, the country can still achieve gender equality with rise in social as well as economic status of women. Though the latter has been progressing steadily, with the new budgetary move, their economic position will surely enhance, but one can also expect more women self help groups to build up. This initiative of the government will also give India’s mission to achieve gender equality the needed turn.

Without being affected by the odds, one should admire the inclusion of women in the Annual Budget. That the focus has shifted from their household contribution to economic shows women have entered the work field in the recent times. Overwhelmingly, these women also inspired others to become self-reliant. May be, this was why loans to self help groups of women increased up to Rs. 42,000 crore in 2016–2017, about 37% growth over
the previous year. One cannot also fail to acknowledge the government’s increased investment, particularly for 2018–2019, in the self help groups led by women.

Along with this investment came another announcement from the Government of Madhya Pradesh that promised Sakhi Mandal single loan rates across the state. More interestingly, this was a suggestion by the citizens which the Madhya Pradesh Government did consider.This is a good indicator of citizens becoming sensitive for the need of women empowerment
in the country.

The country may struggle to provide solutions to several problems women face. But at a larger level, empowering women is the solution to many problems in India that may not be limited to this sect alone. Fostering women self help groups has been an important strategy of the government. Traditionally, a women's self help group in India has 10 to 20 members from similar backgrounds, The members pool in their resources to create a network of savings and lending. These resources aid in solving the problems of the members or to start a commonly benefitting enterprise. Overwhelmingly the Reserve Bank of India has acknowledged these groups as alternative credit systems for the most needy in the community, by reaching communities beyond the reach of banks. They are doing their best to ensure economic sustainability. Along with that, these groups also motivate and inspire rural women to go beyond the defined household boundaries.

Women self help groups include women. They work with their contribution. They work through and for them. And above these, the groups encourage more women to participate. The contribution of these groups has brought India’s GDP under spotlight. They have positively influenced education, finance, public health, sanitation and community development. Their impact has been higher in areas where intervention by government, bank and microcredit policies has been the least.

Ekta Shakti Foundation, among the various supporters of women self help groups, has helped in the creation of 4 SHGs of 10 women each, Annapurna SHG, Maa Durga SHG, Savitri SHG and Bharati SHG. These groups function across 93 Anganwadi Centres at Ekta Vihar Project, around the Haiderpur area in New Delhi. Every group is guided by a President, a Secretary and a Treasurer from among them. Ekta Shakti Foundation will make every effort to channelize their potential and establish these as empowered pillars of strength. With a positive wave of financial independence, these groups will motivate women to believe in themselves and gain the strength to be powerful beyond measure.