NABARD - Status of Microfinance in India 2016-17 - page 59

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also proved beyond doubt the ability of the SHG programme to lift members above poverty line.
It was estimated that the proportion of members below poverty line declined from 58 per cent in
pre-SHG situation to 33 per cent in post-SHG situation, likely due to income growth of 6 per cent
per annum
. Thus, the positive role of microfinance in achieving SDG 1 is well documented.
The formidable task of ending hunger and improving nutrition (SDG 2) cannot be achieved without
involving women and without creating awareness among them. Many SHGs and their federations
have been creating awareness on nutrition among their members. Hunger can be attacked by
enhancing productivity of agriculture and allied sectors, by smoothing the consumption and
ensuring entitlements from food security schemes. Most SHG members take loans for crop/
vegetable production and livestock – both cattle and small ruminants. Such support to food
production activities improve and stabilize incomes and also increase domestic consumption.
Further, SHG loans are taken for consumption purposes to some extent or the other to help tide
over the seasonal shortfall in purchasing power due to seasonal cash in-flows. This is the case
typical to marine fishers and dry land farmers whose income flow is seasonal and during off-
seasons they need loans for ensuring adequate consumption. There have been grain banks run by
SHG women in some parts of the country where members can borrow from grain banks in the
form of grain and repay in kind in future. This is a community level initiative to help people in
difficult times of food shortage. Importantly, membership in SHGs created awareness about the
rights and responsibilities. Reportedly, SHG members in several places questioned the authorities
and dealers on the quality of the rations supplied also brought the issue to the notice of the Gram
Panchayat and other officials. Though consumption levels can be supported through direct income
transfers and/or schemes like MGNREGA, such measures are not sustainable in the long run as
they may disturb the already precarious fiscal situation.
SDG 3 that aims to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages cannot be
achieved without the active involvement of women. For instance, the Swasthya Sakhi (health
activist) program being a component of SHG in Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana (RGMVP)
demonstrated that empowered women have brought remarkable change in health status as
well as in overall development of villages
. Empowerment means improved financial security,
improved power relationships within household and society, enhanced awareness on health,
increased contribution in household decision making along with men and acceptance by men and
recognition to women. Safe deliveries and focus on mother and child health can reduce maternal
mortality. Further, the hygiene practices at household, community and village levels have changed
for the better and women increasingly benefited from other government schemes too, thanks to
information spread by Swasthya Sakhis. Instead of health workers delivering services earlier, the
people started demanding for them, which is a paradigm shift in the service delivery space.
SHG membership is known to have improved the access to education (SDG 4). As per an empirical
study of impact of SHGs
around 80 per cent of members reported increase in access to education.
Several SHGs demanded a school in the village; distributed books to poor children; proposed
an English medium school; approached concerned authorities to have a traffic policeman at the
school and yet several others created awareness on the importance of girl child education among
the villagers and the parents through campaigns and discussions and promoted girl child education
in their villages. Many SHGs discussed the importance of education in group meetings and held
evening classes for the women.
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