When we usethe term “Empowerment”, it is not merely entitlements of few rights but in truesense it refers to ‘capacity building’. The term empowerment in broader senseshould be enabling every element of society free to take decisions in thematter related to themselves in all spheres of their life and achieve the goalof self development. Gender disparity is the biggest hindrance in theachievement of a just, equal and empowered society.
Hence women empowerment issomething which we need to achieve first if we dreamt of such society. Although our constitution firmly advocatesfor equal rights of men and women and vehemently opposes the idea of genderdiscrimination but still we have failed to do away with this inherent illnessof our social system especially in rural India.Women arenot enjoying their rights and suffer from several social, and individualhumiliations and harassments of both physical as well as psychological. Herposition in rural areas is even more worse. Usually they are illiterate and sothey are ignorant of exercising their rights. So, they are unable to achievethe legal equality with men.
The other factor which makes them incapable andmakes them devoid of their rights, is the nature of social structure. Thesocial norms and values which govern human behaviour in rural areas do notfavour women using their rights and thus create obstacles, towards theenforcement of legislations which aim at improving the status of women. Thesocial and traditional customs are deeply rooted in every vein and blood ofsocietal aspects, women have often been treated with wrong notion as soft powerand the society hardly reacted to their needs. If we trackthe figures of Child Sex Ratio( which measures the number of girl child perthousand boys child from age group of 0-6 years), it has reduced gradually from1961 and as per census of 2011 it reduced to 919. Similarly if we compare themale-female literacy rate we will find that female literacy rate is 16 percentless than male literacy rate in the country.
As per the figure released byMinistry of Statistical and Programme Implementation 63.5 percent of the girlsare forced to leave their school education in mid. According to third roundreport of National Family and Health Survey 47 percent of adolescent girlspopulation suffers from low body mass index( whose BMI is less than 18.5 k.g.)and 56 percent of them are anemic. One can well understand the extent genderbiasness our country is suffering from the figure that in “Human DevelopmentIndex” report 2014(released by UNDP) India ranked 130 among all 188 countrieslist but if we exclude the male population and consider only the femalepopulation our ranking would slip to 151. Hence whenwe say women empowerment it would embrace following aspects of empowerment: 1.
Social Empowerment: Achievement of social empowerment by women demands changes in theirsocial mobility and interaction. They should have personal interaction withmembers of their widely spread society to take up and participate in thedevelopmental activities not only for their own sake but also for thesociety. 2. Economic Empowerment: Economic empowerment, which is the hub for all dimensional empowerment,demands changes in two major aspects.
The first and foremost demanding changeis change in the pattern of women’s labour and the other prominent change isthe change in access of women to and their control over material resources,which makes them economically viable. Thus, economic empowerment is sought tobe attained, through promotion of employment and income generation activities. 3. Political Empowerment: Political empowerment is a prospective aspect resulting from theachievement of social empowerment, which demands women’s access toparticipation of women in decision making at local, mandal, distinct, state andnational level political and administrative organs. Provision of reservationfor women is in administration of local bodies through 73rd and 74th IndianConstitutional Amendment, has enabled women to gain access to their representationin political administrative setup. Leadership of women could transform genderrelations and protest the deeply entrenched patriarchal system.
4. Psychological Empowerment: Psychological empowerment is to equip oneself with broadknowledge of various socio-economic political and cultural issue and strengthenone’s intellectual faculty.Self HelpGroups These arethe challenges which can be solved individually but can be better solvedthrough group efforts and here comes the significant role of Self Help Groups.Self-help group is a method of organizingthe poor people,women and the marginalized to come together to solve theirindividual problem. The SHG method is used by the government, NGOs and othersworldwide. Self-Help Groups are such groups wherein friendly subscription of membership,simple savings, amicable and perpetual participatory methods, transparency indecision and resolution making, easy financial transaction, friendlyenvironment in executing various activities, more prominently collective help,collective decision and collective-action, are sincerely followed and maintained.So, they are popularized among women and have attracted the attention of ruralwomen folk. In India, SHGs represent a unique approach to financialintermediation.
The approach combines access to low-cost financial serviceswith a process of self-management and development for the women who are SHGmembers. Linked not onlyto banks but also to wider development programmes, SHGs are seen to confer manybenefits, both economic and social. SHGs can also be community platforms from which women becomeactive in village affairs, stand for local election or take action to addresssocial or community issues such as, the abuse of women, alcohol, the dowrysystem, schools, and water supply.Case ofBiharBihar whichcomes among the bottom states of India as far as developments are concernedexhibit more pitiable plight of women.
High fertility rate, low literacy poorhealth conditions, social and economic backwardness etc are amongst thosetraits which reflect the plight of women there. The government there too haverealized the significance of Self Help Groups in transforming the society. Soendeavours have been made in state to empower women by linking then to Selfhelp groups. In 2015 The Bihar Govt.
aimed to link 1.5 crore women with SelfHelp Groups (SHG) in its efforts in empowering women.The BiharRural Livelihoods Project, known locally as JEEViKA, relies onmobilizing women from impoverished, socially marginalized households into SelfHelp Groups. Simultaneously, activities such as micro-finance and technicalassistance for agricultural livelihoods are taken up by the project and routedto the beneficiaries via these institutions; these institutions also serve as aplatform for women to come together and discuss a multitude of thesocio-economic problems that they face.In anaverage SHG, members meet regularly to participate in savings, borrowing andrepayments; additionally, it provides a small platform for 10-15 women ofsimilar backgrounds to come together and discuss their day-to-day lives.
Themicrofinance activities have a humble beginning where each member makes aweekly saving to the tune of 10-20 cents; the members start inter-loaning amongone another, by drawing on the aggregate savings parked at the SHG. Once suchpractices continue over time, the project provides the SHG with a one-timegrant of 900 USD, which the SHG disburses as loans to the members. Goingforward, these SHGs get linked to banks and leverage funds from formal credit institutions.All avenues of such micro credit have an annual cost of 24%, as opposed to thecredit from village money lenders and shopkeepers which are usually to the tuneof 60% or 120% annually.JEEViKA project in Bihar gives one of theclassic example of successfuloperational outcome of SHG model.
At national level too SHGs play core role inNational Rural Livelihood Mission. Hence our research work would be furtherfocused on the analyzing the various facets of role of Self Help Groups intransforming the status of Women in Bihar.