Women’s Organisations for economic independence
“Empowering women is key to building a future we want” – Dr. Amartya Sen.
According to World Bank, “Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.”
Women in India constitute 48.5% of the country’s total population, according to 2011 census of India. They become victims of various forms of violence and are deprived of choices and opportunities with lack of access and control over resources. Women’s participation in politics is also miniscule that reflects dismal representation in decision making bodies resulting in marginalization of women’s issues and concerns.
According to Findex 2017, only 5% of women account holders took loans from formal financial institutions while the rest continue to borrow informally falling into the vicious circle of poverty. India adopted the SHG movement with its simplified form to provide micro-credit and to mobilise small savings in low-income households and marginalised communities, especially among women. Usually 10 – 20 women come together to form an SHG, i.e., an informal savings and credit organisation. They usually pool their financial resources to make small interest-bearing loans to their members, focusing on savings first. The setting of terms and conditions and administration of the loans are all done within the group. This group savings and lending has built women confidence, credit facilities to encourage entrepreneurship and upward economic mobility.
Over time, these groups being engaged in savings and credit for socio empowerment of women were burdened by legal complexities doubled with volatility of membership base. This posed as a threat to the sustainability of the groups. Secondly, being informal and unregistered they couldn’t access financial resources from large financial institutions and hence their credit disbursement was limited to the resources generated within the groups.
Janvikas had earlier supported many other NGOs in Gujarat state to setup and strengthen women’s cooperatives and hence initiated the efforts on the behest of the demands raised by these unregistered women’s savings and credit societies to set up a registered cooperative in the year 2016.The cooperative being structurally easy to operate and sustainable with its regulatory norms – The HIDRC arm of Janvikas took up this initiative and enabled the process of evolving a democratic, decentralised and member-friendly cooperative that could bring difference socio-economic changes in the lives of women. After mammoth efforts the cooperative was registered in October 2017 as “Shri JagrutMahilaBachhat and DhiranSahkariMandali Ltd.”. A bank account was opened in “Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank” with an initial share capital of Rs 1,02,880 of 274 members. This cooperative is operational in five districts – Ahmedabad, Anand, Dahod, Panchmahal and Sabarkanta. The first General Assembly of the cooperative was organised in December 2017 in Ahmedabad and was attended by more than 400 members. The cooperative was formed with an overarching aim to provide economic independence of women through savings and credit. Currently, it has 863 members with a share capital of Rs. 1.75 lakh and 6 lakh savings along 2.80 lakh credit disbursed.
HIDRC continues to provide hand holding support for building capacity of committee members, evolving management information systems and networking with other under-registered groups to make these women group to be inclusive and undertake benefits for their upward economic mobility.