Self–Help Groups (SHGs) – a tool for social upliftment
Self Help Groups or popularly known as “SHG” as effective tool for poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor and marginalized, especially women, have witnessed phenomenal growth. In the changed paradigm of development emphasizing a) the potential of group mechanism and the role of financial access for economic upliftment, and on the other hand b) empowering participation and ownership of stakeholders in the overall development process, SHGs based development approaches through their proven performance in micro-finance and emerging capability in economical and social arenas have been found to be a formidable strategic intervention.
The basic objectives of SHGs, as enshrined in various applications and policy documents have been:
- To facilitate a collective forum of the poor – men and women – to come together, have the opportunity to interact, dialogue and reflect around their situation and promote sense of business and entrepreneurship.
- To cultivate practice of savings for initial capital formation and then linkages with formal financial institutions for financial services.
- To emphasize institutional linkages and convergence to augment and optimize economic opportunities for both self employment and wage employment routes.
- To build on utilizing their collective strength to take on social and other development issues including health, education, gender equity, dynamics of exclusion, technological divide, etc.
- To equip the SHGs as partners in planning, development and implementation of the pro-poor programs.
Self Help Group as an important poverty alleviation approach is well recognised. It is a fact that West Bengal has been able to promote a large number of SHGs with many successes scripted in various aspects of the SHG movement.
As mentioned, the activities of the SHGs are focussed around savings and credit extension for various livelihood stabilisation and enhancement interventions. And thus, over the years, SHGs have become accepted strategy for “enhancing the quality of life” in a comprehensive manner. Accordingly, formation of and capacity building of the organizations of poor and marginalized men and women- the SHG, Upa-Sangha (at the ward/sansad level), Sangha (at the Gram Panchayat level) and Maha-Sangha (at the Block level), have become important so as to be able to work effectively towards:
- ensuring facilities for financial services (savings, credit, insurance & pension),
- enhancing income through various livelihood measures, and
- addressing social, gender and women inclusion and empowerment issues.