When we use
the term “Empowerment”, it is not merely entitlements of few rights but in true
sense it refers to ‘capacity building’. The term empowerment in broader sense
should be enabling every element of society free to take decisions in the
matter related to themselves in all spheres of their life and achieve the goal
of self development. Gender disparity is the biggest hindrance in the
achievement of a just, equal and empowered society. Hence women empowerment is
something which we need to achieve first if we dreamt of such society.  Although our constitution firmly advocates
for equal rights of men and women and vehemently opposes the idea of gender
discrimination but still we have failed to do away with this inherent illness
of our social system especially in rural India.

Women are
not enjoying their rights and suffer from several social, and individual
humiliations and harassments of both physical as well as psychological. Her
position in rural areas is even more worse. Usually they are illiterate and so
they are ignorant of exercising their rights. So, they are unable to achieve
the legal equality with men. The other factor which makes them incapable and
makes them devoid of their rights, is the nature of social structure. The
social norms and values which govern human behaviour in rural areas do not
favour women using their rights and thus create obstacles, towards the
enforcement of legislations which aim at improving the status of women. The
social and traditional customs are deeply rooted in every vein and blood of
societal aspects, women have often been treated with wrong notion as soft power
and the society hardly reacted to their needs.  

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

If we track
the figures of Child Sex Ratio( which measures the number of girl child per
thousand boys child from age group of 0-6 years), it has reduced gradually from
1961 and as per census of 2011 it reduced to 919. Similarly if we compare the
male-female literacy rate we will find that female literacy rate is 16 percent
less than male literacy rate in the country. As per the figure released by
Ministry of Statistical and Programme Implementation 63.5 percent of the girls
are forced to leave their school education in mid. According to third round
report of National Family and Health Survey 47 percent of adolescent girls
population 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 gender
biasness our country is suffering from the figure that in “Human Development
Index” report 2014(released by UNDP) India ranked 130 among all 188 countries
list but if we exclude the male population and consider only the female
population our ranking would slip to 151.  

Hence when
we say women empowerment it would embrace following aspects of empowerment:

1.    
Social Empowerment: Achievement of social empowerment by women demands changes in their
social mobility and interaction. They should have personal interaction with
members of their widely spread society to take up and participate in the
developmental activities not only for their own sake but also for the
society. 

2.    
Economic Empowerment: Economic empowerment, which is the hub for all dimensional empowerment,
demands changes in two major aspects. The first and foremost demanding change
is change in the pattern of women’s labour and the other prominent change is
the change in access of women to and their control over material resources,
which makes them economically viable. Thus, economic empowerment is sought to
be attained, through promotion of employment and income generation activities.

3.    
Political Empowerment: Political empowerment is a prospective aspect resulting from the
achievement of social empowerment, which demands women’s access to
participation of women in decision making at local, mandal, distinct, state and
national level political and administrative organs. Provision of reservation
for women is in administration of local bodies through 73rd and 74th Indian
Constitutional Amendment, has enabled women to gain access to their representation
in political administrative setup. Leadership of women could transform gender
relations and protest the deeply entrenched patriarchal system.

4.    
Psychological Empowerment: Psychological empowerment is to equip oneself with broad
knowledge of various socio-economic political and cultural issue and strengthen
one’s intellectual faculty.

Self Help
Groups

These are
the challenges which can be solved individually but can be better solved
through group efforts and here comes the significant role of Self Help Groups.
Self-help group is a method of organizing
the poor people,women and the marginalized to come together to solve their
individual problem. The SHG method is used by the government, NGOs and others
worldwide. Self-Help Groups are such groups wherein friendly subscription of membership,
simple savings, amicable and perpetual participatory methods, transparency in
decision and resolution making, easy financial transaction, friendly
environment 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 rural
women folk. In India, SHGs represent a unique approach to financial
intermediation. The approach combines access to low-cost financial services
with a process of self-management and development for the women who are SHG
members. Linked not only
to banks but also to wider development programmes, SHGs are seen to confer many
benefits, both economic and social. SHGs can also be community platforms from which women become
active in village affairs, stand for local election or take action to address
social or community issues such as, the abuse of women, alcohol, the dowry
system, schools, and water supply.

Case of
Bihar

Bihar which
comes among the bottom states of India as far as developments are concerned
exhibit more pitiable plight of women. High fertility rate, low literacy poor
health conditions, social and economic backwardness etc are amongst those
traits which reflect the plight of women there. The government there too have
realized the significance of Self Help Groups in transforming the society. So
endeavours have been made in state to empower women by linking then to Self
help groups. In 2015 The Bihar Govt. aimed to link 1.5 crore women with Self
Help Groups (SHG) in its efforts in empowering women.

The Bihar
Rural Livelihoods Project, known locally as JEEViKA, relies on
mobilizing women from impoverished, socially marginalized households into Self
Help Groups. Simultaneously, activities such as micro-finance and technical
assistance for agricultural livelihoods are taken up by the project and routed
to the beneficiaries via these institutions; these institutions also serve as a
platform for women to come together and discuss a multitude of the
socio-economic problems that they face.

In an
average SHG, members meet regularly to participate in savings, borrowing and
repayments; additionally, it provides a small platform for 10-15 women of
similar backgrounds to come together and discuss their day-to-day lives. The
microfinance activities have a humble beginning where each member makes a
weekly saving to the tune of 10-20 cents; the members start inter-loaning among
one another, by drawing on the aggregate savings parked at the SHG. Once such
practices continue over time, the project provides the SHG with a one-time
grant of 900 USD, which the SHG disburses as loans to the members. Going
forward, 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 the
credit from village money lenders and shopkeepers which are usually to the tune
of 60% or 120% annually.

JEEViKA project in Bihar gives one of the
classic example of  successful
operational outcome of SHG model. At national level too SHGs play core role in
National Rural Livelihood Mission. Hence our research work would be further
focused on the analyzing the various facets of role of Self Help Groups in
transforming the status of Women in Bihar.