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How Team Modi’s self-help groups quietly empowered rural women

Extending his greetings on International Women's Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that the government will continue its focus on empowering women and go ahead with even greater vigour to put Nari Shakti at the forefront of India's development journey.

The Narendra Modi government is set to thrash out more measures to boost the self help groups empowering lakhs of women in the rural areas, as it sets its journey on the next 25 years of Amrit Kaal. While the SHG members have grown exponentially in the last few years, participation from the minority communities has also increased.

Giriraj Singh, Minister, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Giriraj Singh has already announced that he is toying with the idea of creating a Women SHG (Self Help Group) Bank which will fund innovative ideas and products.

An analyst who has extensively researched on Modi’s voter base said that one of the reasons for BJP’s big win in UP and Gujarat are the silent women voters.

“There is a quiet but very important change taking place in thousands of villages in India and this is being driven by women SHGs..an example of how things are changing was visible during the Covid 19 phase when these groups came out in open and supported in fighting the pandemic with the making of masks, educating people, distributing medicines,” a social worker who has been a member of an SHG in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district.

The Economic Survey this year highlighted that until 4 January, more than 16.9 crore masks were produced by SHGs under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihood Mission, a programme that aims at providing sustainable livelihood opportunities for the rural poor families (BPL families).

However, it also prescribed strengthening the functioning of the SHGs and their demonstration of resilience and flexibility during crises, including Covid, needs to be thus regularised for long-run rural transformation. This includes, among other things, addressing inter-regional disparity in the deepening of the SHG movement, graduating SHG members into microentrepreneurs, culturally contextualised skill development for moving up the value chain in products and services, and including the least privileged under the SHG umbrella, the survey said.

Modi and his team have pointed out that the new India’s growth story will have to transition from women’s development to ‘women-led development’.

Women empowerment or Nari Shakti has been one of the thrust areas of the Modi government. Last year, while delivering his Independence Day speech, Modi said that women’s enhanced participation will fuel India’s growth story.

According to official data, cumulative bank loans to SHGs stood at Rs 80,000 crore until 2014. It has now crossed over Rs 6.25 lakh crore with non performing assets (NPA) of just 2.08 per cent.

Also read: PM Modi salutes Nari Shakti on International Women’s Day