Despite the provisions of the Indian constitution and laws enacted to empower them, women in India have faced oppression, especially those in economically and socially disadvantaged communities. The 74th amendment of the Indian constitution aimed to enhance women's participation in local government by reserving 33 percent of seats for them. However, numerous women do not actively engage in the socio-political system, face limited educational opportunities, and encounter difficulties establishing their rightful position in society. To truly empower women, it is crucial to adopt a comprehensive approach that includes economic independence as it has positive impacts on both family welfare and societal development.
The economic development of a state is highly dependent on empowering its human resources, including women. The empowerment process for women in India brings both challenges and opportunities that have an impact on economic growth and development....
Despite making up about 48% of the population, women in India have limited involvement in social and political spheres compared to their economic activity, which stands at 34%. This disparity primarily stems from their traditional familial attachment.
Status of Indian Women in Family and Society
Despite progress in societal legislation and achieving legal and political equality for women in India, their overall status has not significantly improved. It is incorrect to claim that Indian women have a superior position compared to certain other Asian societies. In fact, the situation for women has worsened due to declining sex ratios, decreasing economic participation rates, widening gaps in life expectancy between men and women, as well as increasing mortality and morbidity rates among women.
The Constitution of India ensures formal equality and revolutionary social reforms such as the prohibition of child marriage (establishin
a minimum age of 18 for girls), legalization of widows' remarriage, equal inheritance rights for women within joint families, and introducing significant deviations from traditional gender roles within the Indian society.
However, these laws have not succeeded in bringing about changes in attitudes towards women. The prevailing mindset in society continues to be influenced by religious symbolism that emphasizes the submissive and modest portrayal of women as dutiful wives and devoted mothers.
Manu's codification of subservience for adult females is evident: they should always remain dependent. Whether as a daughter, wife, or widow, a woman is constantly under the control of her male relatives. Society has consistently viewed women solely as someone's sister, daughter, wife, or mother rather than recognizing them as individuals or citizens who deserve to live with dignity and respect.
ECONOMIC - ECONOMIC STATUS OF WOMEN
The discriminatory social structure has led to a permanent division of labor based on gender that reinforces men's power and assigns lower status jobs to women. This perpetuates the squandering of women's potential and disregards individual differences in abilities within each gender. Once occupational or task segregation occurs, it tends to persist without rational justifications.
Despite the fact that adult females, who bear the sole responsibility for household care, are compelled to join the labor market due to unequal incomes or the absence of male earners, society still considers their participation abnormal. This leads to women being seen as supplementary earners, regardless of their contributions or effort. Therefore, even if a woman earns more than half or all of the family income, she is still considered a supplementary earner. Consequently, women face challenges in achieving equal status and income compared to
men in the same profession. They also experience unequal pay and their dual roles as workers and caregivers are often ignored when determining working conditions.
The need to balance productive work with reproductive responsibilities limits women's employment options to what is practical and accessible. Unfortunately, employers exploit this requirement for flexibility by offering low wages to women.
Typically, adult females in both urban and rural communities, especially those from poorer subdivisions, are expected to carry the burden of their households. One woman explained this situation by saying, "If there is money in the house, it belongs to him. If there is no money in the house, it becomes my responsibility." According to the 2001 Census data for Tamil Nadu, out of a total population of 6.21 crores (49.6 per cent), adult females accounted for 3.03 crores. The sex ratio serves as an indicator of the socio-economic status of adult females. In 1961, Tamil Nadu's sex ratio was 992 but decreased to 947 by 1991.
Although there was some improvement in 2001 (986), the sex ratio in Tamil Nadu has been adversely affected by preferences for female infanticide and foeticide. The table provides information on the sex ratio of Tamil Nadu over the years.
With increasing emphasis on women's development in rural and economic development in India, it is important to create a timely initiative that can be helpful in planning and implementing Rural Development Models similar to those in other developing countries like Bangladesh. Developing a model that focuses on women would yield positive results, but it requires support services from both the government and society.
The SHG and DWCRA program provides support services for rural adult females in an
effort to empower them. Empowering women involves granting them control over their economic, social, and reproductive choices in order to enhance their status, foster development, and reduce population growth. Women empowerment is a comprehensive concept comprising interconnected elements that mutually reinforce one another. Increasing awareness regarding the situation of women, discrimination they face, their rights, and available opportunities is a crucial step towards achieving gender equality. By raising collective consciousness, it becomes possible to cultivate a sense of group identity and harness the power of collaboration. To effectively address issues within their communities, capacity building and skills development are essential; particularly in areas such as planning, decision making, organization management, and engagement with individuals and institutions.
The text explores the self-help group and its beneficiaries in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, with a focus on understanding the factors that contribute to their success or failure. The analysis includes studying the socio-demographic and psychological profile of female recipients, their involvement in decision-making at both family and community levels, the program's impact on employment generation and improvement in women's economic status, as well as empowerment components and group characteristics. Hypotheses were formulated based on these objectives: 1) No significant differences exist in socio-demographic and psychological features among SHG adult females; 2) Participation level does not significantly affect decision-making capacity; 3) There is no notable improvement in economic status after joining the SHG program; 4) Components of empowerment do not show significant variation; 5) Group features do not differ significantly. The research methodology included considering various variables. Independent variables encompassed age, religion, caste, educational status, marital status, type of house/family/occupation/landholding/family size, and husband's annual income. Dependent variables examined
achievement motive, risk-taking ability, management orientation, decision-making ability/initiative/assurance. The study was conducted across three states: Andhra Pradesh , Kerala ,and Tamilnadu
The survey included the Chittoor territory in Andhra Pradesh, Palghat territory in Kerala, and Tiruvallure territory in Tamilnadu. In Andhra Pradesh, the Madanapalle urban and Kothapalle rural Panchayats were chosen. Similarly, in Kerala, the Ottapalam urban and Ambalapara rural Panchayats of Palghat district were selected.
A total of 512 SHG recipients were surveyed.
The SHGs of DWCRA and DWCUA groups from urban and rural panchayets, including 200 SHG members from Andhra Pradesh, 200 SHG members from Kerala, and 112 members from Tamilnadu.
Collection OF DATA
To compile the information, interview agendas were utilized. These agendas encompassed demographic, socio-psychological, economic, and group variables. They underwent pre-testing on 50 respondents from outside the survey country.
After analyzing each point based on the consequences of the pre-test and field experience, the agendas have been finalized. The agendas were administered personally to all 400 respondents, and the responses of the SHG donees were scored for analysis.
The survey utilizes both primary and secondary information. The secondary information has been collected through the published and unpublished records of the Governments of Tamil Nadu and the records of the Block Development Offices. To analyze the empowerment of women through SHGs, the survey required a social and economic study of the members of SHGs.
The research conducted involved the use of a preplanned questionnaire and specific methods to gather information from participants. The methodology for collecting primary information included determining the sample size and type, approaching respondents, collecting information, and analyzing the data. The research was carried out through interviews according to a predetermined schedule. To address
statistical limitations, approximately 112 respondents were randomly selected from the entire Village as a sample.
The sampling process used for this study involved a two-stage method. In the first stage, a sample Self Help Group (SHG) was selected. In the second stage, members of the SHG were chosen through random selection. Out of the 8 SHGs that were chosen, a total of 112 members were randomly drawn as part of the sample. The findings of this study demonstrate that economic support or independence among adult females has an influence on their status within both their households and society.
Based on the literature, it is clear that adult females' income adequately meets their household consumption, education, and healthcare needs. This study aims to explore how self-help groups affect women's economic development.
This study utilized an ex-post-facto research design, which is commonly used to analyze the different effects of two identical factors.
According to Kerlinger (1964), ex-post-facto research design is a systematic empirical inquiry where scientists have no direct control over influencing independent variables because their manifestations have already occurred or are inherently non-manipulable. Inferences about relationships among variables are made without direct interventions from attendant fluctuations of dependent and independent variables. In this research study, ex-post-facto research design was adopted since the manifestations of the independent variables had already occurred and there was no scope for the manipulation of any variable.
Chittoor District- Andra Pradesh: A Profile
Chittoor territory is situated on the extreme South of Andhra Pradesh, between 12A°37' - 14A°8' north latitudes and 78A°3' - 79A°55' east longitudes. It is bordered by Ananthapur and Cuddapah territories to the North, Nellore and Chengai-Anna territories of Tamil Nadu to the East,
North ArcotAmbedkar and Dharmapuridistrict of Tamil Nadu to the South, and KolarDistrict of Karnataka to the West. The territory covers an area of 15152 sq.
Chittoor territory has a population of 37.35 hundred thousand as of the 2001 census. The male literacy rate is 17.62% and the female literacy rate is 55.78%. The territory's diverse industries, including sugar, ceramics, fabric, railroad wagon workshop, alcohol, moped, brass, and copper, provide employment opportunities for the people.
The popular crafts of the region include wooden trades, Kalamkari, bell metal, and rock trades. The forests in the region contribute to the state's foreign currency earnings through the export of teak and sandalwood. Other forest products such as honey, tamarind, and various ayurvedic plants also generate revenue for the state. Chittoor territory is well connected to other parts of the state via rail and road. The headquarters of Chittoor territory is located in Tirupati, which is the closest airport.
The ThungaBhadra Hydro Electric Project supplies electricity to the territory. Chittoor is a popular destination for pilgrims as it is home to celebrated temples like Lord Venkateswara Temple, Srikalahasthi Temple, and Tiruchanoor Temple. The prominent crops grown in Chittoor territory include paddy, jowar, sugar cane, bajra, finger millet, and Indian potatoes. The top two commercial crops are Indian potatoes and sugar cane.
The territory consists of three divisions and 66 mandals, with Madanapalle being one of the important mandals in the area.
Palakkad District - Kerala: A Profile
Located in the center of Kerala province, Palakkad is one of the 14 major territories. Unlike other territories, it does not have a coastline.
The Western Ghats play a vital role in shaping the unique characteristics of this region, including
its climate and the exchange of commerce and culture with the rest of India. Palakkad has witnessed historically significant invasions that have left a lasting impact on Kerala's history. The area is home to Bharathapuzha, Kerala's longest river, which originates from the Highlands and traverses through the entire region. Additionally, agriculture plays a major role in Kerala's economy here, employing more than 65% of the workforce and with 88.9% of the population residing in rural areas. The proximity to Tamil Nadu has resulted in a blending of Malayalam and Tamil cultures in this part of Kerala.
The territory's total geographical area is 4480 sq.km, which makes up 11.53% of the State's geographical area. According to the 2001 census, the population of the territory is 26,17,072 with a population density of 584 per sq.km. The sex ratio in the territory is 1068 females per 1000 males. In terms of literacy rate, it achieved a rate of 84.31% in 2001, with males having a literacy rate of 89.73% and females having a literacy rate of 79.31%.
The territory of Palakkad is divided into 13 community Development Blocks for the efficient implementation of various development activities. It is commonly referred to as the "Rice bowl of Kerala". The net cultivated area in the territory is 284 hundred thousand hectares, which accounts for 64% of the geographical area. Paddy cultivation alone comprises approximately 60% of the cultivated area. Other major cash crops grown include coconut, Indian potato, cotton, sugar cane, Piper nigrum, banana, and Anacardium occidentale.
The survey was conducted in both Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Specifically, the Madanapallemandal of Chittoor territory in Andhra Pradesh was chosen for the survey. Within Madanapallemandal,
the Madanapalle urban Panchayat and Kothapalli rural Panchayats were selected due to their high number of self-help group adult female beneficiaries. Similarly, in Kerala, the Ottapalammandal of Palakkad territory was chosen. From Ottapalammandal, the Ottapalam urban Panchayat and Ambalapara rural Panchayats were purposively selected for the survey.
The list of self-help groups from the selected small towns and mandals was obtained from various sources such as the mandal office, DRDA office, SJSRY and SGSY office, and municipal corporation. Out of a total of 523 SHGs, 100 members from Madanapalle urban panchayet and 100 members from Kothapalli rural Panchayat were randomly selected, resulting in a sample size of 200 SHG members belonging to 19 groups. Each SHG group typically consists of 10-15 members. Similarly, from Kerala, out of the 720 groups, 100 members from Ottapalam urban Panchayat and 100 members from Ambalapara rural Panchayat, belonging to 15 groups in total, were purposefully chosen. Each SHG group in Kerala typically consists of 10-20 members.
Therefore, a total of 512 self-help group (SHG) respondents from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Tamilnadu were included in the final sample for this study. An interview agenda and questionnaire were carefully prepared to gather information from the respondents. The interview agenda consisted of three parts. Section A collected general information such as age, religion, caste, education, marital status, annual household income, educational status of the household, land ownership, household structure, and household size. In addition to this, Section A also covered involvement in SHGs, exposure to mass media, decision making in the household and community, awareness about SHGs, attitude towards self-employment, self-esteem, and openness to diversity.
A pre-test was conducted on 50 SHG women beneficiaries from
five groups outside the study area of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The researcher personally administered the interview agenda by visiting the SHG members.
The results indicated that most of the points were easily understood, but some had to be altered and others added. The role of SHG members in economic development was examined using concluding agendas. These agendas were translated into Telugu and Malayalam for convenience.
RELIABILITY OF THE INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
To determine the reliability of the interview agenda and questionnaire, a random sample of 50 SHG women was used. The test-retest method was implemented.
The correlativity coefficient for the agenda was 0.783, demonstrating its significance at the 0.01 chance level. Both the interview agenda and questionnaire exhibit face cogency, content cogency, and intrinsic cogency. The specific details for each type of cogency are outlined below:
To ascertain the face cogency of the agenda, it was presented to 50 SHG adult females members who had no prior knowledge of authorization. These individuals believed that the agenda effectively assessed economic authorization and its components. As stated by Lindquist (1966), "a trial is face valid particularly if it looks valid to layman," thus indicating that the interview agenda possesses face cogency.
Contented cogency refers to how balanced the content of a trial is when attempting to draw conclusions within a specific field. This is particularly important in research. In order to ensure this type of validity in the trial, efforts were made to include all areas of economic authority. An equal number of sample points were included under each component. Prior to preparing the interview schedule, a comprehensive and systematic examination of all components of economic
authority was conducted using books and journals.
Experts were consulted and the interview schedule was reviewed based on the suggestions of the experts for content adequateness and truth, indicating that the interview agenda possesses content cogency.
The intrinsic cogency of a test, which refers to the degree to which it measures what it is intended to measure, can also be expressed as how well the obtained scores reflect the true score component of the test. The cogency is represented by the square root of the proportion of true variance, or in other words, the square root of its reliability.
Another term for this statistic is the dependability index (Guilford, 1954). The inherent value of the trial was 0.783 = 0.8848, indicating a high level of intrinsic cogency in the agenda.
The data was collected by administering the agenda and questionnaire to the adult women beneficiaries of the SHG. The researcher established a good rapport with the respondents and explained the importance of their responses in the study.
The research worker conducted interviews with nonreader respondents to collect information. For this study, data from primary and secondary sources were chosen. The data regarding the number of women's SHGs, number of groups, and their involvement in income generating activities in the selected villages and mandals were gathered from records of the Mandal office, DRDA office, municipal office, etc.
STATISTICAL TECHNIQUES USED FOR THE STUDY
Based on the aforementioned objectives, the information mentioned above was inferred by calculating the following statistical variables.
Besides simple methods of analysis like mean, percentages, and standard deviation, other statistical tools such as t-test, chi-square, and ANOVA were also used. Paired 't'-test was used to determine the significance between
two variables of income in respondents before and after joining self-help groups.
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
Circumstantial restrictions can act as barriers and prove detrimental in the case of many efforts aimed at achieving something. Similarly, this study could not escape the grasp of such limitations. Essentially, the study was limited to only one mandal in Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh, one mandal in Palakkad district, Kerala State, and one district in Tamilnadu. Time constraints and intermittent financial limitations were additional undeniable limitations.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
A comprehensive review of literature is extremely important for any research project. It provides a broad understanding of the specific field. Reviewing previously conducted research studies in the same area can guide further research. Research studies that focus on self-help groups and various aspects of their development are identified and presented to gain a deeper insight into the research problem. The majority of studies related to SHGs are evaluative in nature and are conducted by agencies that administer or fund these programs.
Such studies often focus primarily on the quantitative aspects of various types of self-help groups. Some studies have explored the economic aspects of group operations, while others discuss the psychological aspects, particularly the "group dynamics". Some studies also connect the functioning of these groups to the ultimate goals of rights and empowerment.
SHGs - A REVIEW OF PROGRESS
Micro-finance and women empowerment have become increasingly researched topics in recent years. Numerous organizations have promoted SHGs, following successful experiments that aim to provide credit access to impoverished women.
Since the early 1980s, numerous studies have examined the various dimensions of micro-finance programs and women empowerment. International organizations such as Action-Aid, UK, CGAP (Consultative Group to
Assist the Poorest), and Overseas Development Authority have conducted case studies and organized workshops in different countries. These workshops primarily explored the experiences of different nations and the impact of micro finance programs from a cross-cultural perspective. Other sources of information include published and unpublished materials, including materials from the Micro-credit Summit (February 1997 and 2001) and action research programs of IRMA, NIRD, and CIRDAP Digest. Despite being new to the informal sector debate, micro-enterprise promotion has evolved from poverty relief activities that began in the early 1960s. The proponents of micro-enterprise development approach are action-oriented.
They strive to empower groups and communities through assistance and the development of organizational skills and abilities. They support, finance, and execute programs that address the needs of those in poverty (Rakowski, 1994). Choudhary (1996), in her study, emphasized the necessity of shaping women's empowering strategies to make them effective and results-oriented. She observed that money earned by impoverished women is more likely to be used for basic life necessities compared to that earned by men. This realization would place women as the focal point of development efforts. She also explored the benefits of organizing women's groups, which would create a new sense of dignity and confidence for them to tackle their challenges with solidarity and work together for economic independence. An article (GraminVikas, 1995) highlights the role of an innovative savings/credit program called Podupulakshmi that had been successfully implemented in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh.
Podupulakshmi is based on a simple rule of saving one rupee per day per member. The program has allowed adult females to climb the societal ladder and achieve economic prosperity. The timely intervention of
government officials and their careful designation also contributed to the success of the program. The South Malabar Gramin Bank (1998) conducted a "Monitoring Study on SHGs" to assess the progress of the strategy in Malappuram and Kozhikode territories since its implementation in 1995-96.
Approximately 60% of the bank-linked groups were rated as excellent. In some groups, group dynamics decreased after the credit linking. The study suggests that 20% of the groups need to undergo organizational changes by replacing current members. Multiple shortcomings were identified in the CDS groups, including lack of monitoring, lack of coordinator engagement due to non-receipt of allowances they once received, and inactive group performance.
An impact study conducted by the Department of Statistics, University of Kerala, in seven wards with 2003 vulnerable households in Alappuzha revealed that households with less than two meals per day decreased from 57% in 1993 to 44.50% in 1996. The percentage of households with one or more nonreaders decreased from 26.5% to 17.8%, and households with individuals addicted to alcohol declined from 32.5% to 22.10%.
- Surveys on Concept of SHGs
- NABARD (1995) defined SHG as a homogeneous group of rural poor voluntarily formed to save whatever amount they can conveniently save out of their incomes and mutually agree to contribute to a common fund from which to lend to members for productive and emergent credit needs.
- Singh (1995) conceptualized SHG as an informal association of individuals which come together voluntarily for the promotion of economic and social objectives.
- A SHG is a homogeneous group of no more than 25 persons who have come together for greater economic and financial strength
through mutual aid (Anon, 1996).
- Shylendra (1998) defined Self-help Groups (SHGs) as small informal associations created to enable members to benefit economically through mutual aid, solidarity, and shared responsibility. The group-based approach not only allows the poor to save small amounts of money but also helps them access formal credit facilities.
- Thomas (1998) defined SHGs as voluntary groups of rural poor individuals who save small amounts from their incomes, which is convenient for all members, and agree to form a common fund to provide loans to meet their production and emergent needs.
Surveys on SHGs and Micro-credit Medha (2001) conducted a study similar to Sebastian's, but also included SHGs promoted by government agencies in Maharashtra province. The study aimed to examine how various governmental and non-governmental organizations empowered women through SHGs. A total of 160 SHGs were selected from three taluks.
, Bhor, Velha, and Haveli
in Maharashtra were identified as areas where there were major obstacles in the development of Self Help Groups (SHGs). These obstacles were found to be related to the lack of preparation and selling opportunities. Various government and non-government organizations were working to make these women's groups sustainable and viable. Pune ZillaParishadhad set up the Savior Centre to sell products made by SHGs and provide training for industries such as chalk, brooms, paper bags, etc. For the fir
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