ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF RURAL WOMEN THROUGH SELF HELP GROUPS: A CASE STUDY OF FALLANGANI GAON PANCHAYAT UNDER GOLAGHAT DISTRICT OF ASSAM

Plabita Bhattacharyyaand Pulak Bhattacharyya2
1Research Scholar, Department of Economics, Dibrugarh University,Assam, India
2Research Scholar, Department of Education, Dibrugarh University, Assam, India

Abstract
Empowerment of women and gender equality are two vital issues of development. Women are integral part of the development process of any country and to achieve this goal it is necessary to close the gap between women and men in terms of capacities, access to resources and opportunities. Due to the reasons such as illiteracy, low work participation, status of women is very poor in developing countries and they have less autonomy. According to 2011 census male-female literacy gap was 11.54% in Assam. This gap is higher in rural areas (12.42%) than in urban areas (6.13). As a result women’s participation in decision making as well as income generating activities is very low and they have to depend on men. Without economic independence and access to credit women empowerment is not possible. SHG’s can be considered as an empowerment tool for women as it provides easy access to credit. This paper is an attempt to study the role of SHG’s in promoting empowerment in rural areas. This paper intends to evaluate to some economic factors such as income expenditure, saving and investment of the women members after joining SHG.
Keywords: Economic empowerment, Self Help Groups, Literacy Gap, Income generating activities   

1. Introduction
Women are integral part of the society. According to 2011 census women population is 48.47% of the total Indian population. The census highlights that the growth rate of females was 18.3 percent which is higher than males – 17.1 percent. In Assam, female population is 15214345 as per the 2011 census report. Though women constitute nearly half the total population, a large section of the women are vulnerable and marginalized due to lack of education, access to resources and employment opportunity. All round development and harmonious growth of a nation is possible only when women are considered as equal partners in the development process (Islam and Sarmah, 2014). Empowerment is a multi-dimensional concept, which include economic, social and political empowerment. Economic independence is considered to be the major means in the way to achieve social and political empowerment and Self Help Groups are considered as one of the most significant tools in participatory approach for the economic empowerment of women. Through SHGs the rural poor especially the rural women can ensure access to banking and financial services which reduces their dependence on men. It also encourages the saving habit among the poor rural women. SHGs give the opportunity to women to start economic activities for closing the gap between women and men. Considering these, this paper examines the women empowerment through SHGs. This study is restricted to only one district of Assam viz. Golaghat and restricted to only Gaon Panchayat viz. Fallangani Gaon Panchayat.

2. Objectives
This paper intends to understand the outcomes observed on economic fronts of the women members being involved in SHGs’ activities. The objectives of this paper are more specifically noted as below.
i)   To understand the factors that motivates the women to involve in group activities.
ii) To evaluate the level of economic empowerment of women through SHG i.e. income, expenditure and saving of the member after joining SHG.

3. Methodology
The study used primary data and secondary data for analysis according to the objectives set out in the study. To understand the impact of SHGs in empowering women in rural areas, a field study was conducted in Fallangani Gaon Panchayat under Morongi development block of Golaghat district of Assam. At the first stage, a list of women SHGs in the study area is prepared. Then from that list 10 women SHGs has been selected purposively each having 10 members. At the next stage, 4 members from each SHG have been selected randomly. Thus, a sample of 40 SHG members has been taken for the study.   Secondary data were collected from various books, journals, websites etc.

4. Results and Discussion
4.1Concept of Women Empowerment and Self Help Groups
Women empowerment refers to an increase in the strength of women such as spiritual, political, social or economic. The most common explanation of “Women’s Empowerment” is the ability to excise full control over one’s actions (Narang, 2012). According to Murthy, empowerment in the context of women’s development is a way of defining, challenging and overcoming barriers in a woman’s life through which she increases her ability to shape her life and environment. Women empowerment is a process in which women challenge the existing norms and culture, to effectively promote their well being (Thangamani and Muthuselvi, 2013). Thus, we see that women empowerment is a multidimensional concept and it is the key to socio-economic development of the community. Since 1970s, the idea and practice of self help has developed world wide as a major social phenomenon for women empowerment (Islam and Sarmah, 2014). Formation of SHGs is one of the major efforts for poverty alleviation and women empowerment. According to Narang, Self Help Group is a process by which a large group of women (10-20), with common objectives are facilitated to come together voluntarily to participate in the development activities such as saving, credit and income generation thereby ensuring economic independence (Narang, 2012).

NABARD report 2009-10 highlights that there are 6959250 SHGs all over India in 2009-10.  But SHG movement is not remarkable in Assam. District-wise physical achievement under SGSY in Assam is presented in table 1.

Table 1: District-wise Physical Achievement under SGSY in Assam, 2011-12 

District
SHGs Formed
SHGs taken up Economic Activity
Women SHGs Formed
Women SHGs Taking up Economic Activities
Total Since
1-4-99
Current Year
Total Since 1-4-99
Current Year
Total Since 1-4-99
Current Year

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
Kokrajhar
4312
252
3251
213
2893
137
117
Dhubri
15044
1038
6307
976
7514
607
338
Goalpara
7398
45
2733
0
5170
25
253
Barpeta
12375
645
5320
553
7103
425
235
Morigaon
9880
992
4093
655
5880
251
150
Nagaon
23744
2876
6384
1132
14554
1924
413
Sonitpur
23603
53
12018
1226
17432
53
582
Lakhimpur
11013
485
2058
380
6296
372
290
Dhemaji
9634
570
1187
376
7719
456
172
Tinsukia
7310
2121
2841
964
3316
440
453
Dibrugarh
11822
1428
3360
1287
10538
1285
342
Sivsagar
9954
884
5661
1287
8912
699
636
Jorhat
12410
1560
5901
1122
9404
1464
908
Golaghat
7923
770
2108
661
4932
532
274
Karbi Anglong
5904
1214
1091
126
5195
980
75
Dima Hasao
1243
142
519
55
678
78
0
Cachar
9917
907
3236
1492
4960
456
419
Karimganj
9056
907
0
678
4065
313
406
Hailakandi
4919
460
1790
377
2011
78
113
Bongaigaon
6807
781
2588
809
3550
407
253
Chirang
3754
169
1583
309
2715
50
149
Kamrup
12855
745
5014
15
9273
466
450
Kamrup Metro
2196
835
346
92
1879
732
219
Nalbari
9231
236
2627
151
5893
161
125
Baksa
11630
0
1746
250
8330
0
1070
Darrang
11709
2791
2271
669
5271
1953
261
Udalguri
10498
1312
4003
308
7101
1050
3861
Assam
266141
24218
90036
15747
172584
15394
12564
              
From the above table it is seen that total no of 266141 SHGs have formed in Assam since 1-04-1999. This figure is highest for the district Nagaon (23744 SHGs) and lowest for the district Dima Hasao (1243 SHGs). In the year 2011-12 highest no of SHGs have formed in Nagaon (2876 SHGs). If we see the number of SHGs taken up economic activity since 1-4-1999, it is found that in Sonitpur district highest numbers of SHGs (120189) have taken up economic activity. Table shows that in Karimganj district, no SHG has taken up economic activity since 1-4-1999. But in the year 2011-12, 678 SHGs have taken up economic activity in this district. In the year2011-12, highest 1492 SHGs have taken up economic activity in Cachar district.

In case of women SHGs, highest no of SHGs have formed in Sonitpur district since 1-4-1999. Nagaon stood at second position with 14554women SHGs. If we see the figure of 2011-12, it can be seen that in this year highest number of SHGs have formed in Darrang district (1953 SHGs) followed by Nagaon (1924 SHGs). The table shows that as per the available data of 2011-12 highest no of SHGs (3861 SHGs) in Udalguri district have taken up economic activity followed by Baksa district (1070 SHGs) and Jorhatdistrict ( 908 SHGs).

5.2Socio- Economic Profiles of the Respondents
Socio-economic profiles help in deriving a clear picture of the respondents and the society in which they live. In this context some socio-economic variables like age, education level, marital status, occupation of the respondents are presents in the table 2.

Table 2: Socio-Economic profile of the respondents


SL No
Characters
Number
Percentage
1
Age groups(years)
20-25
25-30
30-35
35-40
40 and above

0
5
15
10
10

0.00
12.50
37.50
25.00
25.00
2
Marital status
Married
Unmarried
Widows

40
0
0

100
0
0
3
Family type
Nuclear
Joint

32
8

80
20
4
House type
Pakka
Kaccha
Mixed

8
30
2

20
75.00
5
5
Educational status
Illiterate
Can just sign
Primary
HSLC
HS
Graduate

0
0
17
10
3
10

0.00
0.00
43.75
25.00
7.5
25
6
Occupation
Self employed
Daily wage earner
Agricultural labourers
Housewife
Service

0
0
0
35
5

0
0
0
87.50
12.50


The table reveals that majority of the respondents (37.50%) belonged to the age group of 30-35 years followed by 35-40 and above 40 years (25%) and 25-30 years (12.50%). No respondents are in the age group of 20-25 years.
Table shows that all of the respondents are married. Most of them belong to nuclear families (81.25%) and rest (18.75%) to joint families.

Most of them live in kaccha houses (75%) followed by pakka houses (20%) and only one (5%) of the respondents lives in mixed type of house.

Most of the SHG members are primary pass (43.75%) followed by HSLC pass (25%) and graduate (25%). Only 7.5% respondents possess education upto HS level.

Occupations wise distribution of the SHG members show that majority of the respondent (87.50%) are housewife while only 12.50% belong to service category.

4.3 Reasons for joining of Self Help groups
Members can join the SHG for various reasons. The opinions of the respondents for joining the SHG are in the table below.

Table 3: Reasons for joining of SHG members

Sl. No
Statement
No of respondents
Percentage
1
To attain the economic independence
15
37.5
2
For passing time
3
7.5
3
For saving
10
25.0
4
To raise status in society
0
0
5
To maintain household expenditure
6
15
6
To get loan
6
15
7
Others
0
0

Total
40
100.0

The opinion for joining the self-help group as a member, the table shows that 37.5% of the respondents opinion regarding for economic independence, the second importance for enriching the saving (25%). Only 7.5% of the respondents opine that they join SHG for passing time and other reasons.

4.4 Duration of membership in SHG
Distributions of the respondents on the basis of their membership period in SHG are presented in the following table.

Table 4: Duration of membership in SHGs

Duration
No of respondent
Percentage
Below 1 year
13
32.5
1-3 years
10
25
3-5 years
5
12.5
Above 5 years
12
30

Table shows that most of the respondents (32.5%) have membership period below 1 year and above 5 years, followed by 1-3 years (25%) and 3-5 years (12.5%).

5.5 Impact of SHG on members’ income
To assess the impact of SHG on members’ income the following hypothesis is framed and significant of this is tested with t-test with 1% level of significance.

Hypothesis 1: There is a significant difference between pre-SHG and post SHG income of the members.

Table 5: Comparison of members’ income between pre-SHG and post-SHG period

Categories (income)
Mean
Df
T
Significant level
Pre-SHG period
9338.5
39
4.87
Significant at .01 level
Post-SHG period
11349.75
39

From the table we see that here ‘t’ value is found to be 4.87, which is significant at .01 level. Since, calculated ‘t’ value is found to be higher than the tabulated ‘t’ value (t=2.71), we accept the directional hypothesis that is, “there is a significant difference between pre-SHG and post-SHG income of the members.

4.6 Impact of SHG on members’ expenditure
To assess the impact of SHG on members’ expenditure the following hypothesis is framed and significant of this is tested by using ‘t’ test with .05 level.

Hypothesis 2: There is no significant difference between pre-SHG and post-SHG expenditure of the members.

Table 6: Comparison of members’ expenditure between pre-SHG and post-SHG period

Categories (Expenditure)
Mean
Df
T
Significant level
Pre-SHG period
6012.50
39
1.93
Not significant at .05 level
Post-SHG period
7931
39

Table reveals that ‘t’ value is found to be 1.93 which is less than the tabulated ‘t’ value (t=2.02). Hence, we accept the null hypothesis “there is no significant difference between pre-SHG and post-SHG expenditure of the members.

4.7 Impact of SHG on members’ savings
To assess the impact of SHG on members’ savings the following hypothesis is framed and significant of this is tested by using ‘t’ test with .01 level.

Hypothesis 3: There is no significant difference between pre-SHG and post-SHG savings of the members.

Table 7: Impact of SHG on members’ savings

Categories (savings)
Mean
Df
T
Significant level
Pre-SHG period
1887.67
39
3.837
Significant at .01 level
Post-SHG period
3673.72
39

From the table it is seen that the calculated‘t’ value is 3.837 which is greater than the tabulated ‘t’ value (t=2.60). Hence, we reject the null hypothesis “there is no significant difference between pre-SHG and post-SHG savings of the members.

5. Policy Implication
i) Most of the members of SHGs are lack of proper training and knowledge about the movement of SHGs. It should provide proper training to the members for the upliftment of the SHGs of the study area.
ii) The financial position plays an important role for SHGs. So credit facilities should be provided for their functioning.
iii) The appropriate authorities should provide managerial and marketing facilities whenever necessary.
iv) Programme should be taken to make the people aware about the benefit of higher education of the women for the society.

6. Conclusion
This study was undertaken to evaluate the economic empowerment of rural women through self help groups in Fallangani Gaon Panchayat of Golaghat district. Study revealed that after joining the SHG the income of the members has significantly increased. But in case of expenditure it was found that there was no vast difference between expenditure of the members in pre-SHG and post-SHG period. As a result saving in post-SHG period has increased significantly than that of pre-SHG period. From these findings it can be concluded that SHGs positively improved the economic empowerment of women in the study area.

References

  • M. Islam and J.K. Sarmah (2014). Impact of Self Help Groups in Empowering Women: A Study of Rural Assam. Social Change and Development, XI(2), pp.90-98.
  • S. K. Das (2012). Self Help Group as an Empowerment Tool for the Women Group Members: An Assessment. International Journal of Social Sciences & Interdisciplinary Research, 1(5), pp.32-42.
  • S. Thangamani and S. Muthuselvi (2013). A Study on Women Empowerment through Self-Help Groups with Special Reference to Mettupalayam Taluk in Coimbatore District. IOSR Journal of Business and Management, 8(6), pp.17-24.
  • U. Narang (2012). Self Help Group: An Effective Approach to Women Empowerment in India. International Journal of Social Science & Interdisciplinary Research, 1(8), pp.8-16.


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