Livelihood and Women Empowerment
The origin of microfinance is often dated as the 1970s from Bangladesh. The concept entered India in 1990s and received both wide publicity and success in pushing people out of their poverty. In India, microfinance movement grew up mainly through self help groups and has come out its primary stage, that is, group formation. Success of SHG model shows two things, first, poor are much more credit worthy and they have better repayment records when the group provides the social collateral and second; financial services can be provided to the poor in affordable manner without sacrificing the financial sustainability of the institution.
Sustainable livelihood development has been one of the major thrust areas of SWERA since its inception and it was also very much aware of the fact that microfinance has widely smoothened consumption, reduced the vulnerability of the poor and led to increase in income of poor around the globe. Henceforth, the organisation adopted microfinance as key strategy to cater to people's small financial requirements and to lift them out of the vicious circle of poverty.
Keeping in view the local situations where women are frequently forced to take responsibility of their entire family SWERA identified women as major target group of its MF programme under various strategic names, presently 'PEHAL' and 'Combating Poverty'.
Under these projects, from the very outset, organisation had concerns towards producing 'self managed groups' instead of 'well managed' and concentrated primarily on capacity building of its SHGs. Myriad training programmes were taken up to unearth the hidden potential of women. For instance, stitching training, artificial jewellery making training, training of SHG record keeping for leaders, vermicompost training, health training to impart health education and so on.
These training programmes had been quite successful, but not up to the expectations. It was very disappointing but a bitter pill to swallow. However, some women started reaping the benefits of dedicated man hours which they spent developing new and polishing their skills through training programmes. They are not earning abundant amount of money through their nascent enterprises.
Abysmal results of training programmes forced SWERA to undergo a paradigm shift in thinking about the livelihood development of poor especially of SHG women. This is why meticulous discussion is under progress with ARAVALI on entering of SWERA in MRI mode.
Apart from this th eorganisation also came up with a project to strengthen the livelihood nees of poor under the strategic name 'Family Livelihood Resource Centre'. Under this project 500 poorest families have been identified through PRA to work with and to lift them out of their poverty in a susntainable manner. In days to come these families will be segmented into different groups on the basis of their input neds and then will be provided with different training, exposure, etc., accordingly.