Empowerment of Women through Neighbourhood Groups in Malappuram district of Kerala
Haseena Jasmine C K
NeighbourHood Group (NHG) popularly known as Kudumbashree Ayalkoottam, is an innovative idea undertaken by Kudumbashree mission of Kerala. Empowerment of women is essential to harness the women labour in the main stream of economic development. Empowerment of women is a holistic concept. It is multi-dimensional in its approach and covers economic, political, social/cultural, personal and family aspects. Of all these facets of women development, economic empowerment is of utmost significance in order to achieve a lasting and sustainable development of society. Micro finance is an important means for attaining women empowerment. Micro finance is the provision of thrift, credit and other financial services and products of very small amounts mainly to the poor in rural, semi-urban and urban areas for enabling them to raise their income level and improve their standard of living. It has proven to be an effective and popular measure for women empowerment. This paper examines how far the NHGs contribute to women empowerment and also to understand the problems faced by the members of NHGs.
Keywords: Microfinance, Empowerment, Neighbourhood Groups (NHGs), Kudumbashree, Poverty Eradication.
Women are an integral part of every economy. Overall growth and development of a nation would be possible only when women are considered as equal partners in progress with men. Empowerment of women is essential to bring the women in the main stream of economic as well as social development, and also to bring national development. Women empowerment is multi-dimensional in its approach and covers economic, political, social, cultural and personal aspects.
Micro finance is an important means for attaining women empowerment. Micro finance is the provision of thrift, credit and other financial services and products of very small amounts mainly to the poor in rural, semi-urban and urban areas for enabling them to raise their income level and improve their standard of living. It has proven to be an effective and popular measure for women empowerment.
The State Poverty Eradication Mission, known as Kudumbashree is an innovative poverty eradication programme of the Government of Kerala, which is a community based, women oriented and participatory programme in every respect. Kudumbasree programme is being implemented through the local self governments in the State. The three-tier community based organisation of women includes Neighbourhood Groups (NHGs) at the grass root level, Area Development Societies (ADSs) at the local level and Community Development Societies (CDSs) at the Panchayat/ Municipality level. These organisations act as important means for empowering women. Empowerment of women is considered as an important responsibility of every government.
NeighbourHood Group (NHG) popularly known as Kudumbashree Ayalkoottam, is an innovative idea undertaken by Kudumbashree mission of Kerala, with the aim of not only to know our neighbours, but also to share all our information, views, ideas or opinions for the betterment of our group in general. This platform will also help each one of the members to showcase their talents through the annual get together.
Grass root level poor women are organized through Neighbourhood Groups(NHGs) consisting of 20-40 women with 5 functional Volunteers, viz., Community Health Volunteer, Income Generation Volunteer, Infrastructure Volunteer, Secretary and President. The NHG members used to meet once in a week in one of the member’s house. The members, who meet together, discuss their problems and make joint effort to find solutions to their grievances with the support of the functional volunteers. This would bring up an interpersonal feeling among the members and would generate supportive attitude to build confidence among them. Apart from this, they practice small savings through thrift which should be used to create productive assets.
Empowermentrefers to increasing the economic, political, social, educational, gender, or spiritual strength of individuals and communities. Women’s Empowerment educates and empowers women who are homeless with the skills and confidence necessary to get a job, create a healthy lifestyle, and regain a home for themselves and their children. Empowerment also includes encouraging, and developing the skills for, self-sufficiency, with a focus on eliminating the future need for charity or welfare in the individuals of the group. This process can be difficult to start and to implement effectively.
Statement of Problem
Empowerment of women is seen as one of the most important means of economic, social and cultural development as well as for reducing poverty among women. Even the Government takes considerable effort for empowering women and to improve their status in the society, still they face number of problems. We know NHGs are mainly initiated for the purpose of empowering women. But we can’t think that all NHGs are succeeded in women empowerment. And also we can’t faithfully believe that all the members of NHGs are satisfied with them.
It is necessary to analyse how far the NHGs contribute to women empowerment and also to understand the problems faced by the members of NHGs.
Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study as follows:
To examine the role of Neighbourhood Group in women empowerment.
To identify the problems and constraints faced by the members of Neighbourhood Groups.
To make suggestions for the empowerment of women.
The research design adopted for the study is descriptive. The study is based on both primary and secondary data. The primary data was collected from 100 members of NHGs through a sample survey in Malappuram district of Kerala. A structured questionnaire was used for the collection of primary data. The secondary data was collected from the journals, books, reports, websites etc. For analyzing the collected data, the mathematical and statistical tools like percentage and average have been used.
Analysis and Interpretation
Overall Women Empowerment through NHGs
The following table shows the overall empowerment that attained by members through the NHGs.
Overall Empowerment of Members
Basic facilities and amenities
Education of children
Improved medical treatments
Standard of living
Decision making power
Freedom of action
Personal skills and abilities
Ability to mingle with others
Mutual help and support
Sources: Primary Data
It reveals that, majority of the Neighbourhood Group members are empowered by the scheme NHGs (Kudumbashree Ayalkoottam). 56% are highly empowered by NHGs, 24% neither highly nor poorly empowered by the NHGs and only 20% are poorly empowered by the scheme NHGs.
The following table shows the personal problems faced by the members of NHGs.
Number of Respondents
Percentage of Respondents
Stress & Strain
Delay in getting loans
Freedom of action
Freedom of decision making
Lack of training
Lack of information
Lack of coordination
Conflict between members
Sources: Primary Data
This table indicate that 43% are facing the problem of delay in getting loans, 37% are feel the family responsibility as a burden for their work, 30% are facing lack of proper guidance for smooth functioning of NHGs, 20% are facing stress and strain while working in NHGs and seven percentage in decision making. From this analysis, we can conclude that majority of the members are facing problem of delay in getting loans and proper guidance.
The following table shows the financial problems faced by NHGs members.
Number of Respondents
Lack of finance
Lack of income
Lack of Govt.support
Resistance from banks & other financial institution
Proper utilization of fund
Delay in getting loan from ADS /CDS
Sources: Primary Data
The table 3 reveals the financial problems faced by NHG members. Among the 30 members, 67% are facing lack of income, 50% are facing lack of finance and 30% are facing delay in getting loans from the affiliated ADS/CDS. Only three percentage face resistance from banks and other financial institutions and 10% are facing the problem of proper utilization of funds. As per the table we can say that, even they are facing large number of problems but 100% NHGs are free from overdue debts.
FINDINGS OF THE STUDY
The key findings of the study are summarized here.
From the analysis it is clear that 90 % of the NHGs members are housewives and only three percentages are Govt. employees. Seven percentages of members are engaged in other jobs along the membership in NHGs.
Around 43 % of NHGs members are working in NHGs for a period of 2-5 years, 37% are above 5 years and only 13% are working for 6-12 months.
It is interested to note that 57% of members are joined in NHG for taking loans to meet personal financial needs, and 40% are joined with the expectation that they can improve their standard of living by way of increasing income. Majority of the members are entered into the field only for taking loans.
The level of satisfaction that attained by NHG members reveals that 74% are satisfied, 20% are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, but only 6% are dissatisfied.
Whole of the NHGs undertaking micro finance scheme. Apart from this, 40% NHGs are engaged in self employment schemes and other schemes for the welfare of the women, children, aged people, etc. The activities include Harithashree, Scholasrship for children, Balasabha, etc. These are undertaken mainly for imparting knowledge for their members.
NHGs are exclusively for the benefit of women. The analysis reveals that 100% women members of NHGs are beneficiaries of their activities. They are not only undertaken for the welfare of women, but also for the welfare of general public, aged people, Children, etc.
Majority of the members (90 %) opinioned that NHGs have a crucial role in women empowerment and only three percentages are fall under the category of low empowerment.
Majority of the members (87%) have improvements in their standard of living as a result of reduction in poverty through NHGs.
Family support is an integral part for empowering women. Majority of members (87%) get great support from their family to participate with NHG by way of financial services (69%), motivation (54%) and participation in decision making.
Majority of the members (80%) have enough time to spend with their family even they are working in NHG.
Unlike men, women have dual role in her family. Hence family responsibility may be a barrier for their efficient performance in NHGs. It shows that, 50% members never felt family responsibility as a burden for them.
Majority of the members (60%) spend their income as they wish. It is interested to note that, they have freedom in spending their income without permission of their husbands, fathers or any other relatives.
As a member in NHG, they got a prominent role in family decisions in the matters of food items, education of their children, medical treatments of their dependents, etc.
Though the respondents are become a members of NHG for increasing income, only 16% have increased income through NHGs.
Average 35% members believed that they got a family improvement through NHGs. At the same time, 33% believed that there is no family improvement.
Above 50% members achieve personal improvement through NHG.
NHG members got social improvement than any other improvements through NHGs (62%).
Majority of NHGs succeeded in imparting knowledge and skills to their members. They can also acquire personal education through NHGs and their experiences in NHGs. Majority of them acquire banking habit through NHGs.
Major problems faced by NHGs are lack of co-ordination (84%), lack of income (67%) and delay in getting loans from afflicted ADS/CDS (30%).
Major problems faced by NHG members are lack of income for their valuable services for the economic development. They also feel lack of proper guidance (30%), training (10%), and information (10%).
The level of empowerment attained by respondents through NHGs have crucial role in economic as well as social development, because the development is possible only when the women are empowered. Empowerment of women has been achieved to a great extend, through NHGs. Majority of members are attained personal improvements (85%) than any other improvements. They have acquired decision making power (77%), mobility (67%) and equality (63%) through Ayalkoottam. 100% members are attained ability to mingle with others and 86% attained mutual help and support through Ayalkoottam. Thus there have great improvements in the women in matters of their personal skills, social involvement, decision making power, etc through NHGs.
To enhance women empowerment through NHGs, it is suggested to undertake the following measures by the NHGs.
For strengthen women, NHG should strengthen their overall working.
Generally the members do not get any remuneration for their service. So they are not motivated to work with enthusiasm. Therefore the Government should provide adequate remuneration to them.
NHGs provide service by categorizing BPL and APL families; it is not a rational measurement. Therefore the Government should identify the right beneficiaries.
The Government should provide more funds for the welfare of the women through NHG.
Majority of the members in NHGs are highly empowered through the micro financing and loan facilities. It is clear that women are the ultimate beneficiaries of this scheme. But they still face a number of problems in this field like lack of family support, lack of income, lack of training and coordination etc. Among all improvements attained by women as a NHG member, social improvement is the most enlightened one.
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