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Need For Empowerment Of Women Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 5388 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Indian women have been suppressed despite the various provisions of the Indian constitution and the legislations enacted to empower them. The conditions of the women among the socially and economically weaker sections are even more repressed. The 74th amendment of the Indian constitution gave women a substantial role in the local government and reserved 33 percent of seats for women. However, a large chunk of women, do not participate in socio-political system build capacities, avail educational opportunities and take rightful places in the society.

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Understanding of empowerment of women requires a multi­dimensionalapproach. Economicindependenceoreconomic empowerment of women plays a significant role in the improvement of a household and development of society. The empowerment of a country’s human resources goes a long way in determining its economic development. The process of empowerment of women offers various challenges and opportunities, which determines the pace of growth and development of the economy. Women constitute about 48 per cent of the population in India but their participation in social, political arenas are insignificant when compared to their economic activity which is 34 per cent. The major reason for the poor participation of women in all areas is due to their traditional attachment to their families.

Status in the Family and Society

Advances made in social legislation and the relative ease with which Indian women secured legal and political equality could not improve 1 the status of women significantly, it is incorrect to say that unlike some of the Asian societies, women’s status in India is very high. In reality, the position of women has worsened considerably with declining sex ratios, declining economic participation rate and growing gaps in life expectancy between men and women and mortality and morbidity conditions of them.

The Constitution of India guaranteed formal equality and radical social reforms, forbidding child marriage (below the age of 18 for a girl), legalizing remarriage of widows and providing equal share to women in the joint family, property under the Inheritance Act, introducing important deviations from the traditional fabric in the Indian social structure. But the laws did not succeed to change attitudes, and the prevailing societal mindset towards women is still conditioned by religious symbolism which highlights the self-sacrificing, self-effacing pure image of women and a woman as a faithful wife and devout mother. Subservience of women is summed up in Manu’s code, where it is stated that a woman should never be independent. As a daughter she is under the surveillance of her father, as a wife, of her husband and as a widow, of her son or parents or male relative. A woman has been viewed as someone’s sister, daughter, wife or mother and never is she treated as an individual or citizen in her own right who also needs to Jive with dignity and self-respect.


The-discriminatory social structure has resulted in a pervasive sexual division of labour, which reinforces the notion of the mate having more power and relegates low status occupations to women. In so doing a leads to a waste of female potential and ignores individual differences in capacities and abilities within each sex. Once occupational or task segregation takes place, it tends to be retained against all other rational criteria.

Though defining women as solely responsible for family care, their Hon into the labour market, made inevitable by inadequate incomes of male or absence of male earners, is at certain levels seen as deviant behavior and results in the pervasive notion of the woman worker as a supplementary earner irrespective of the total resources contributed to the household or the time and energy spent. Thus, a woman who earns more than half or sometimes the entire household income is still regarded as a supplementary earner. They cannot command equal status, to one inthesame job with equal income. And almost in all cases and in all levels, they do not get equal wages for equal work, nor do the conditions of work offered to them take into account their dual roles. The need to combine productive work with her reproductive role and family responsibilities means that a woman’s choice of work is often dictated by what is feasible and easily available, and this need for flexibility is frequently exploited by the labour market and is easily used as another excuse to pay low wages to women.

Amongst the poorer sections of the urban and ruralcommunity, women are generally expected to shoulder the burden of the survival of their families. As onewoman put it – “If there is money in the house, thecontrol is his. If there is no money in the house, the responsibly is mine”.

Out of the total population of 6.21 crores as per 2001 Census, women accounted for 3.03 crores (49.6 per cent) in Tamil Nadu. Sex ratio is a barometer for recording socio-economic status of women. Sex ratio for Tamil Nadu stood at 992 in 1961, which declined, to 947, in 1991.

However, it showed a slight improvement in 2001 (986). The causative factor for adverse sex ratio is sex selective female preferences, foeticides and female infanticides. Table shows the sex ratio of Tamil Nadu over the years.


Table Declining Female Sex Ratio

























Source: Director of Census Operations, Chennai


In view of growing importance attached to women’s development in the process of rural development and by and economic development of India, the timely attempt is made which may be proved useful in the planning and framing of Rural Development Models which are similar to the activities of other developing countries such as Bangladesh. Framing a development model which is related to women would bring positive results. The necessary support services are to be provided both by government and society at large. Such support services for rural women are provided under SHG and DWCRA a programme which brings about women empowerment.

Women empowerment means the idea that gives women power over their economic, social and reproductive choices which will raise their status, promote development and reduce population growth. “Women empowerment can be viewed as a continuum of several interrelated and mutually reinforcing components”.

Awareness building about women’s situation,

discrimination, rights and opportunities as a set

towards gender equality. Collective awareness

building provides a sense of group identity and

the power of working as a group.

Capacitybuildingand skills development, especiallytheabilitytoplan,makingdecision, organize, manage and carry out activities to deal with people and institutions in the world around them.

Participation and greater control and decision making power in the home, community and society.

Action to bring about greater equality between men and women.


In the parleys of social science research, it is quite essential to design the study comprehensively to address the basic issue of the study. Keeping this in view, care has been taken to understand the various important aspects of the study through selecting the objectives in the following manner:

The general objective of the study was:

To examine the self-help group and its beneficiaries in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamilnadu and identify the factors contributing to success and failure of the self-help groups.

The specific objectives of the study were:

To study the socio-demographic and psycholo­gical profile of SHG women beneficiaries in these three States.

To assess the level of participation of Self-Help

Groups women in decision making at family and


To examine the impact of programme on

employment generation of self-help group women.

To assess the improvement in the economic status of women before and after joining self-help group.

To compare and analyze the components of empowerment.

To analyze the group characteristics of SHG women beneficiaries.


Based on the above objectives, the following hypotheses here formulated:

There is no significant difference in the socio-

demographic and psychological characteristics of

SHG women beneficiaries.

Differences in the levels of participation of SHG

women had no significant effect on the decision making capacity at family and community level.

There is no significant improvement in the economic status of SHG women beneficiaries after joining SHG programme.

There is no significant variation in the components of empowerment of SHG women beneficiaries.

There is no significant difference in the group characteristics of SHG women beneficiaries.



The independent variables included in the present study were age, religion, caste, educational status, marital status, type of house, type of family, family size, landholding, occupation of husbands, annual income. The depen­dent variables included in the study were achievement motivation, risk taking ability, management orientation, decision making ability, initiativeness and Self-confidence.


The place of the study was the state of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamilnadu. The districts selected were Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh and Palghat district in Kerala and Tiruvallure district in Tamilnadu. In Andhra Pradesh., Madanapalle urban and Kothapalle rural Panchayat were selected. Similarly in KeralaOttapalam urban and Ambalapara rural Panchayat of Palghat districtwereselected.


The study covered a total sample of 512 SHG beneficiaries. The SHGs of DWCRA and DWCUA groups from both urban and rural panchayats i.e., 200 SHG members from Andhra Pradesh and 200 SHG members from Kerala and 112 members from Tamilnadu.


To collect the data, interview schedules were used, which covered demographic, socio-psychological, economic and group variables. They were pre-tested on 50 respondents outside the study area. After analyzing each item based on the pre-test results and field experience, the schedules have been finalized. The schedules were administered personally to all the 400 respondents and the responses of the SHG beneficiaries were scored for the purpose of analysis.


The study makes use of primary and secondary data. The secondary data have been collected through the published and unpublished records of the Governments of Tamil Nadu and the records of the Block Development Offices.

In order to study the empowerment of women through the SHGs, the study required a social and economic survey of the members of SHGs. The survey required preplanned questionnaire and the methods necessary to elicit information from the members. Methodology of primary data collection involves the type and size of the sample, ways of approaching the respondents, technique of data collection and the-method of data analysis.

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Based on the first hand information obtained research has been conducted with the help of an interview schedule. In view of the various statistical constraints, a sample of about 112 respondents was taken on the basis of random sampling from the entire Village. The sample design was a two-stage sampling. At the first stage, a sample SHG was selected. The second stage was the selection of the sample member of the SHG. From the selected 8 sample SHGs, the sample members have been drawn at random. Thus a total of 112 members have been selected from the sample SHGs.

It was observed that the economic support or economic independence of women changes the status of women both in the family and society. From the literature reviewed so far it was clear that the income earned by women directly meets the family consumption, education and health needs. In the light of the above discussion the present study aims to examine the role of self-help groups in women’s economic development.


Ex-post-facto research design was followed for the present study. This method is generally used to study varying influence of two identical factors.

According to Kerlinger (1964) Ex-post-facto research design is a systematic empirical enquiry in which the scientists do not have direct control of influencing independent variables because their manifestations have already occurred or because they are inherently not manupalable.

Inferences about relations among variables are made without direct interventions from concomitant variations of dependent and independent variables. In this research study, since the manifestations of the independent variables had already occurred and as there was no scope for the manipulations of any variable, ex-post-facto research design was- adopted.

Chittoor District- Andra Pradesh: A Profile

Chittoor district is on the extreme South of Andhra Pradesh, between 12°37′ – 14°8′ north latitudes and 78°3′ – 79°55′ east longitudes. It is surrounded by Ananthapur and Cuddapah districts on the north, by Nellore and Chengai-Anna districts of Tamil Nadu on the east, by North ArcotAmbedkar and Dharmapuridistrict of Tamil Nadu on the South and by KolarDistrict of Karnataka on the west. The district is spread over 15152 sq. kms. As per 2001 census the population of Chittoor district is 37.35 lakhs. The male literacy rate is 17.62 per cent and female literacy rate is 55.78 per cent.

The various industries of Chittoor district generating employment for the people are sugar, ceramics, textile, railway wagon workshop, alcohol, moped, brass and copper. The popular handicrafts of the region are wooden crafts, Kalamkari and bell metal and stone crafts. The forests of the region help the nation to earn foreign currency by exporting teak and red sandal wood. The other by products of the forest are honey, tamarind, and many ayurvedic plants, which earn revenues for the State.

The district of Chittoor is well connected to the various places of the State by rail and road. The headquarters of Chittoor district is at Tirupati which is the nearest airport. The district receives electricity from the ThungaBhadra Hydro Electric Project. Chittoor is a favorite destination for pilgrims, temples like Lord Venkateswara Temple, SrikalahasthiTemple,Tiruchanoor Temple etc. are the famous pilgrim centres. The major food crops grown in Chittoor district are paddy, jowar, sugarcane, bajra, ragi and groundnuts. An urban commercial crop, groundnut takes the first place followed by sugarcane. Mango is one of the important orchard crops in the district. The district comprises of three revenue divisions and 66 mandals. Madanapalle is one of the revenue mandals among these.

Palakkad District – Kerala: A Profile

Palakkad is one of the fourteen revenue districts of Kerala. The district, situated almost in the centre of the state, has no coastal line. Western ghats is perhaps the most influential factor for the unique characteristics of the district such as climate, commercial as well as cultural exchanges between the State and the rest of the country. Palakkad witnessed invasions of historical importance that have left indelible impressions of the history of Kerala. Bharathapuzha, the longest river in Kerala, originates from the highlands and flows through the entire district.

The district is one of the main granaries of Kerala and its economy primarily agriculture. Agriculture engages more than 65 per cent of the workers and 88.9 per cent of the district’s population is rural in nature. The proximity and easy approach to Tamil Nadu havecaused the admixture of Malayalam and Tamil Culture here. The totalgeographical area of the district is 4480 sq.km representing 11.53 per cent of the State’s geographical area. As per 2001 census the population of the district is 26, 17,072. The density of population is 584 per sq.km. The sex ratio is 1068 females per 1000 males. The district has achieved 8*4.31 per cent literacy in 2001 and the male literacy rate is 89.73 per cent and female literacy rate is 79.31 per cent. The district is divided into 13 community Development Blocks for the effective implementation of various development activities.

“Rice bowl of Kerala” is the synonym of Palakkad. The net cultivated area of the district is 284 lakh hectares i.e., 64 per cent of the geographical area. Paddy alone accounts for about 60 per cent. Coconut, groundnut, cotton, sugarcane, pepper, banana and cashew are some of the major cash crops raisted.

The study was conducted in both the States of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. In Andhra Pradesh, Madanapallemandal of Chittoor district was selected. From Madanapallemandal, Madanapalle urban Panchayat and Kothapalli rural Panchayats were selected because it consists of larger number of self-help group women beneficiaries. In Kerala, Ottapalammandal of Palakkad district was selected. From Ottapalammandal, Ottapalam urban Panchayat and Ambalapara rural Panchayats were selected purposively for the above study. The list of self-help groups from the selected villages and mandals was obtained from the records of mandal office, DRDA office, SJSRY and SGSY office and municipal corporation.

From the 523 SHGs, 100 SHG members from Madanapalle urban panchayat and 100 SHG members from Kothapalli rural Panchayat were selectedrandomly, thus the total sample comprises of 200 SHG members belonging to nineteen groups. Each SHG group consists of 10-15 members. Similarly, from Kerala, of the 720 groups 100 SHG members from Ottapalam urban Panchayat and 100 SHG members from Ambalapara rural Panchayat, belonging to 15 groups were selected purposefully. Each SHG group consists of 10-20 members. Thus, a total sample of 512 SHG respondents belonging to Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamilnadu.Formed as the final sample for the present investigation.

An Interview schedule and questionnaire was prepared carefully to collect the information from the respondents. The interview schedule consists of three parts. Part A covers the general information like age, religion,caste, education, marital status, annual income of the family, educational status of the family, land holding, family structure, family size etc. Apart from this, Part A also participation, mass-media contact, decision making in family and community, credit orientation, perception about SHGs, attitude towards self-employment, self-esteem and cosmopoliteness.


Pre-test was done on 50 SHG women beneficiaries belonging to five groups, other than study area of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala The investigator administered the interview schedule personally by visiting the SHG members. Results showed that there was no major difficulty in understanding the items but a few items had to be modified and a few had to be included. Final schedules were used to study the roleof SHG members in economic development. The schedule thus prepared was translated both in Telugu and Malayalam languages for easy administration.


The co-efficient of reliability and validity of the interview schedule and the questionnaire was established on a random sample of 50 SHG women. Test-retest method was used. The obtained correlation coefficient for the schedule was 0.783 which was significant at 0.01 level of probability.

The interview schedule and the questionnaire possess face validity, content validity and intrinsic validity as it has been established. The details of each of these are given below:

Face validity

The schedule was shown to 50 SHG women members who had no knowledge of empowerment, they felt that it measured the knowledge on economic empowerment and its components. Lindquist (1966) says “a test is face valid particularly if it looks valid to layman” and therefore the interview schedule has face validity.

Content Validity

Content validity indicates how adequate is the content of a test sampling the domain of which inferences are to be made. It is particularly important for research. To restore this type of validity to the test, an attempt was made to see that all the areas of economic empowerment were included. Under each component, an adequate number of sample items were included. The preparation of interview schedule was preceded by a thorough and systematic examination of all components of economic empowerment in books and journals. Experts were consulted. The interviewschedule was reviewed in the light of the suggestions of the experts for content adequacy and accuracy. In view of these, it may be said that the interview schedule possess content validity.

Intrinsic Validity

The degree to which a test measures what it measures may be called its intrinsic validity. This definition can also be stated in terms of how well the obtained scores measure the tests true score component. The validity is indicated by the square root of the proportion of true variance, in other words, the square root of its words, the square root of its reliability. Another name for this statistic is the index of reliability. (Guilford,1954). The intrinsic value of the test was

0.783 = 0.8848

which indicates that the schedule possess high intrinsic validity.


The data were collected by administrating the schedule and the questionnaire to the SHG women beneficiaries. The researcher established a good rapport with the respondents and explained the need of the study in which they have to respond to the items. The investigator collected the information from the illiterate respondents by conducting interviews with them. For the present study information from primary and secondary sources were selected. The information relating to number of women SHGs, number of groups and their involvement in income generating activities in the selected villagesandmandals were collected from the records of Mandal office, DRDA office, municipal office etc.


In view of objectives herein above mentionedinformationwas suitably inferred by calculating the followingstatistical constants. Besides simple methods of analysis likemean,percentages, standard deviation,other statistical tools like t-test, chi-square and ANOVA were also used. Paired’t’-test was used to test the significance between two averages of increase in income of respondents before and after joining in self-help groups.


Circumstantial limitations may act as barriers and prove detrimental in case of many efforts aimed at achieving something. Similarly, this endeavour could not be relieved from the clutches of such limitations. Basically, the study was handicapped to the extent that it was a single venture, covering one mandal of Chittoor district, of Andhra Pradesh and one mandal from Palakkad district of Kerala State and one district in Tamilnadu. Irreversible and irrevocable time and intermittent pecuniary constraints were the next irrefutable limitations.



A thorough review of literature is of paramount importance to any research endeavour. It helps to acquire a broad general background in the given field. A review of research studies already done in the area will be helpful in giving direction to further research. Research studies focusing attention on self-help groups and the different aspects of the development have been identified and presented with a view to get better insight of the research problem.

Most of the studies pertaining to SHGs are evaluative in nature, undertaken by agencies administering or funding the programmes. Such studies tend to focus mostly upon the quantitative dimensions of different types of self-help groups. Some studies have examined the economic aspects of the groups functioning while some others discuss the psychological aspects, in particular the “group dynamics”. Certain other studies link the groups functioning to the ultimate objectives of rights and empowerment.


Micro-finance and women empowerment is a subject that has received growing research attention in recent years. Several organizations have promoted SHGs takingup the philosophy and approach of successful experiments of extending credit to poor women. Since the early 1980s, a large number of studies have examined the various dimensions of micro-finance programmes and women empowerment. Several international organizations such as Action-Aid, UK, CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist, the Poorest), and Overseas Development Authority have conducted case studies and organized workshops in various countries. The workshops had looked mainly into the experiences of different countries and the impact of the micro finance programme in a cross-cultural perspective. Other sources of information include published and unpublished materials including materials from the Micro-credit summit (February 1997 and 2001) and action research programmes of IRMA, NIRD and CIRDAP Digest.

Though new to the informal sector debate, micro-enterprise promotion has evolved from poverty alleviation activities from the early 1960s. The proponents of micro-enterprise development approach are action oriented. They aim to empower groups and communities through business assistance and development of organizational skills and capacity. They promote, fund and carry out programmes that address the needs of the poor (Rakowski, 1994).

Choudhary (1996) in her study stressed the need for shaping women’s empowering strategies to make them effective and result oriented. She pointed out that money earned by poor women is more likely to be spent on the basic needs of life than that by men and that this realization would bring women as the focus of development efforts. She also examined the advantage of organizing women groups thereby creating a new sense of dignity and confidence to tackle their problems with a sense of solidarity and to work together for the cause of economic independence.

An article (GraminVikas, 1995) highlights the role of an innovative saving/credit programme called Podupulakshmithat had been successfully launched and carried out in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. Podupulakshmiis based on a very simple principle of saving a rupee per day/per member. The aspirations of women for economic prosperity went up and they started climbing up the social ladder through the programme. The other factor for the success was timely intervention of the government machinery. The careful identification of key government functionaries also led to the success of the programme.

The South Malabar Gramin Bank (1998) conducted a “Monitoring Study on SHGs” to examine the progress of the scheme since its implementation in 1995-96 in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. About 60 per cent of the bank-linkaged groups were rated as excellent. In a few groups, group dynamics decreased after the credit-linking. The study suggests that in 20 per cent of the groups, the organizational set-up should undergo change by replacing the existing members. It identified several weaknesses in the CDS groups such as lack of monitoring, lack of interest among co-ordinators due to non-receipt of allowance which they had been formerly receiving and static performance of groups.

An impact study conducted in seven wards with 2003 risk families in Alappuzha by the Department of Statistics, University of Kerala, revealed that families with less than two meals per day had gone down from 57 per cent in 1993 to 44.50 per cent in 1996, families with one or more illiterates fell from 26.5 per cent to 17.8 per cent and families with persons addicted to alcohol declined from 32.5 per cent to 22.10 per cent.

Studies on Concept of SHGs

NABARD (1995) defined SHG as a homogenous group of rural poor voluntarily formed to save whatever amountthey can conveniently save out of their earnings and mutually agree to contribute to a common fund from which to lent to members for productive and emergent credit needs.

Singh (1995) conceptualized SHG as an informal association of individuals which come together voluntarily for the promotion of economic and social objectives.

A SHG is a homogenous group of not more than twenty-five individuals who have come together for greater economic and financial strength through mutual help(Anon,1996).

Dwarakiet al. (1996) described a self-help group as an unregistered body of people, preferably the disadvantaged who willingly contribute an agreed sum of money which would be lent at a price for a short period as fixed by the group itself.

Krishnamoorthy(1996) defined SHG as an organization formed by people for pooling their resources to help each other.

Roul (1996) defined SHG as an institutional framework for individuals or households who have agreed to cooperate on a continuing basis to pursue one or more objectives.

Karmakuar (1998) defined SHG as an informal group of people where members pool their savings and re-lend within the group on rotational basis.

Shylendra (1998) defined SHGs are small informal associations created for the purpose of enabling members to reap economic benefit out of mutual help, solidarity and joint responsibility. The group-based approach not only enables the poor to accumulate capital by way of small savings but also helps them to get access to formal credit facilities.

Thomas (1998) defined SHG as a homogenous group of rural poor voluntarily formed to save small amounts out of their earnings which is convenient to all members and agreed upon by all to form a common fund corpus for the group to lend its members fur meeting their production and emergent needs.

Studies on SHGs and Micro-credit

Medha (2001) made a study similar to that of Sebastian, but Medha also covered the SHGs promoted by government agencies also in Maharashtra state. The title of the study was “Mobilising women SHGs through government and non-government organisations.” which attempted to focus that how various governmental and non-governmental organisations stepped forward to empower women through Self-help Groups (SHGs). Total 160 SHGs were selected from three taluks viz., Bhor, Velha and Haveli of Maharashtra.

The study identified two major obstacles in the development of SHGs, i.e., enterprise training and marketing. Various government and non-government organisations were helping these women groups to become sustainable and viable. Pune ZillaParishadhad established Savior Centre for marketing, products made by SHGs and also given training to the manufacture of chalk, brooms, paper bags eifc., For the first time in Pune district, a market at the taluka level was being set up which would cater to the various requirements of the taluka. SHGs, managed by theJijamata Research Centre of Gyantrabodhini at Shivapur, undertake various business activities. The centre provides enterprise training to the members of the SHGs and products manufactured by them had a market in California, USA. There were 20 members who contribute Rs.25 pe


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