Dr. Banarsi Lal and Dr. Pawan Sharma
Women constitute around half of population in the social system. Although women have made progress all the spheres of life but still there exists a lot of gender discrimination in the society. Poverty and gender discrimination threaten the well-being of women, deny their choice for education and training, restrict them for their participation in different programmes, curtail political and economic rights etc. In many cases, women are given secondary importance in every section of society. Right from beginning of her life restrictions are imposed and she is prohibited to express herself properly. It has been observed that large percentage of population of women is unemployed, have poor socio-economic status, least decision making, lack education and awareness on different development aspects and so on. So, there is dire need to empower the women through different kinds of schemes or programmes launched by different Governmental and non-government organisations. Some strenuous efforts are needed specially to empower the farm women.Self-Help Group (SHG) is a small, economically homogenous and affinity-based group of people who decide to save and contribute to a common fund to be lent to its members as per the group decisions. SHGs are a way to involve rural men and women actively in the development process by increasing the income, technical skills, mutual help, address constraints etc. The agenda of SHGs is ‘Empowerment’ and shifting from dormant masses of the rural women to vibrant masses by bringing more income in their hands, so that they can lead a better social life. Self Help Groups (SHGs) formation in J&K has immense scope. It, especially in hilly areas, of J&K can assist in the women’s empowerment. The origin of Self-Help Groups is the brain child of Economics Prof. Mohammad Yunus of Chittagong University, who founded Gramin Bank of Bangladesh in 1976. This was exclusively established for the poor section of the society. The Self-Help Group movement is a silent revolution to uplift the poor people across the globe. World Micro Credit Summit was held at Washington in 1997, converged developed and developing countries of the world to overcome the serious problem of poverty by using micro credit as a tool to empower the poor section of the society. The major objectives of SHGs are 🙁 1) to inculcate the habit of saving and banking among rural women. (2) to develop credibility among rural women and the bankers. (3) to develop group activity so that women can start the entrepreneurships. With the introduction of some new interventions micro-entrepreneurship can be developed among the rural women SHGs.Sex ratio in Jammu and Kashmir is 889 i.e., there are only 889 females per 1,000 males much below the national average of 940 females per 1,000 males. The economy of Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir has been facing an armed conflict from the last 30 years. Disturbance in this UT has deeply affected people’s employment, their attitude, behaviour, habits, health etc. The women of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered a lot especially after 80s. Women can contribute significantly to the economy of the Union Territory. Women are the key agents for the society development. Government have launched a lot of state and centrally sponsored schemes in the J&K from time to time for the upliftment of women. About 3.8 lakh of women in J&K have involved in the SHG movement.It has been observed that poor people have innate capabilities and made strenuous efforts to come out from poverty. Self-Help Groups (SHGs) especially for women help to start entrepreneurial activities, can help to eradicate the poverty. Formation of Self-Help Groups can be an effective tool for the women empowerment in the Union Territory. With the help of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) women can be trained for different kinds of skills under different programmes and schemes by the various organisations which further can help them to improve their socio-economic status. The concept of women’s empowerment is the result of several important critiques, debates and discussions generated by the women’s movement across the globe, especially by third world countries.Women and SHGs in many parts of the country have achieved success in bringing the women to the main stream of decision making. The SHGs in our country have become a source of inspiration for women’s welfare. Formation of SHG is a viable alternative to achieve the objectives of rural development. SHG is also a viable organised set-up to disburse micro- credit to the rural women and encouraging them together into entrepreneurial activities. To alleviate the poverty and to empower women, the micro-finance, Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and credit management groups have also started in J&K. There is no doubt that the women of Jammu & Kashmir have suffered a lot during the last 30 years. SHGs formation can be one of the important options to assist these women to come out from economic distress. For this purpose, Government has launched several state and centrally sponsored schemes/programmes for the upliftment of women. Some of these are as: (1) Women belonging to minority community viz, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians etc. are being financed under the national minorities’ development and finance corporation. (2) Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) scheme was introduced in 1999 with major objective of developing micro enterprise in rural areas, thereby developing the potentials of rural poor who belong to below poverty line, financial assistance both in the form of loan and subsidy is provided to the beneficiaries, both individuals as well as Self-Help Groups so that they can set up their own entrepreneurships. As per the reports, the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana scheme is implemented in all the districts of Jammu & Kashmir. This scheme mainly emphasis on the formation of women’s Self-Help Groups. (3) Reports signify that Jammu and Kashmir women’s development corporation (JKWDC) has put forth various socio-economic schemes for the upliftment of women belonging to minorities, backward and other classes. (4) Various social welfare departments also implement various schemes for the women. Presently, there are around 150 social welfare centers which impart different kinds of training to women so that they can start their entrepreneurships. Presently, there are 19 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) under SKUAST-J, SKUAST-K and CITH in the J&K which are imparting need-based farmers and vocational trainings to the women and the trained women start the entrepreneurships in agriculture and allied sectors. These KVKs assist in the formation, management and strengthening of SHGs. Many women trained by KVKs have started their micro-entrepreneurships in agriculture and allied sectors and generating a good income.The size of an ideal Self-Help Group (SHG) should be of 10 to 20 members. An informal group should not have more than 20 members and the group members should have homogeneity in their socio-economic status. It has been observed that the members in a big group do not actively participate besides chances of conflict also increase. Only one person from a family should become a member of a Self-Help Group (SHG) and in this way more number of families can join Self-Help Groups. The group should be either of only men or only women.The group leaders viz. Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer are decided by the group members. The group leaders should be benevolent in nature and they can be rotated as per the need. It has been observed that the women groups generally perform well and women are considered more credible by banks for returning the group dues than their counterparts. The group members should follow rules and bye-laws of SHGs.
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