Volumes are published on how women lag behind in the race of development, specifically in terms of socio-economic and political spaces. Consequently, policies are framed to fix the indicators and chart out the plan which is inclusive. Theoretically, mankind has strived to make women equal partners in development, but the objective of inclusive participation in decision making has still remained a distant dream.
Today, it is safe to conclude that development needs women, it is not the other way around. Though we can discuss in length the initiatives taken under the myriad of governmental as well as non-governmental schemes and policies for women empowerment, the sustainability of these interventions have remained far from the desired achievements. The very programme collapses as soon as the external support is withdrawn.
For any intervention to be successful women need a platform to express themselves and make their voices heard. They need an amicable environment wherein they can make decisions and enjoy control over resources to adopt the livelihoods of their choice.
Such a package of services has been hard to find in any intervention. But one initiative that comes to mind as a gamut to achieve desired results is Women Self Groups (SHGs), their secondary and tertiary federations. Though the concept of SHGs is not a recent one, what is promising and worth to discuss is their secondary and tertiary federations, with potential to exist as sustainable institutions for women without any external support structure.
Secondary federations are known by different names like Village Organization, Dehtanzeem or Gram Sangathan and are represented by the SHG leaders at a Gram Panchayat level. These institutions are designed in a way where women govern them with full financial and administrative control.
They also enjoy the choice to design the programmes for capacity building of their member SHGs and form subcommittees to address issues such as social, health, financial and educational in nature. They also relish the authority of loaning and livelihoods based on microcredit plans with the mechanism of accountability to none but the SHG (women) itself.
Livelihoods are promoted based on the principle of community-based identification and adoption, wherein it is believed that they are equipped with knowledge about the pros and cons of trade they are choosing. The state is required at the inception for the birth, promotion and infusion of catalytic capital, but with the passage of time, these groups acquire the full potential to be declared as self-sustainable.
Indicators like income earned and cost of support services, credit circulation and livelihood upgradation, leadership development and rotation, credit linkages to financial institutions without any collateral and external sponsorship and social acceptance within the community are some of the parameters of self-sustainability.
Village organisations generate their net-profits out of circulation of loans, group funds, business plans, resource and sponsorship fees. The institution propels to the situation wherein it caters to the expenditures used to meet support services like facilitation costs, audit fees, rent and other costs.
The executive committee of the tertiary federation is a representation of over a thousand women and is a stage for decision making of higher magnitude and an apex body to monitor the federated institutions. Women monitor their growth through self-made indicators on Panch Sutras, grading, wealth rakings and microcredit plans.
The creation of CBRMS makes the concept of women-specific SHGs an ample platform where the concept of overall development becomes realistic and leaves a good footprint for a true case study bringing about sustenance in the lives of women.