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Social Mobilization

SeSTA supports the community to organize itself in groups which are self-managed. These self managed groups provide an environment to its members to develop and grow. The groups facilitate expression of the members’ sense of agency. Groups also help build a critical mass (numbers / scale) to influence the environment around. It also provides an opportunity for the disadvantaged communities to link with each other, help each other and build on each one-another’s capabilities.

Promotion of Women Self Help Group and their institutions
SeSTA has been promoting Women’s self-help group as it believes that SHGs can be an effective platform to empower women and address women issues by reducing their vulnerability.

Self help group is an association of 10 to 20 women from similar socio-economic background. They meet weekly for savings and credit, to discuss issues of livelihood well being, gender inequities, rights & entitlements and extend mutual support to address these. A SHG promoted by SeSTA is a democratic institution owned and managed by the women. The women come together voluntarily to improve their economic and social well-being. SeSTA provides guidance and support. SHGs are also an effective interface for the poor to constructively deal with the external world: the village society, the panchayat, VCDC, the banks and the government. The SHG is also a medium for solidarity and empowerment of women, providing them the space and voice to negotiate and participate as equals both within the family and in society in general.. A SHG in the long run is expected to evolve as a socially and financially sustainable institution totally autonomous of SeSTA.

8 to 12 SHGs at the Village or Panchayat level form a Village level Organisation(VO), it is a democratic body, 2-3 representatives from each group is elected to participate in cluster, meeting once in a month. The objective of cluster is to act as a pressure group uniting SHGs for addressing various issues related to atrocities on women, social evils, ‘SHGs’ health and governance. As the VO progresses it is gradually felt that a formation like this can also serve many other purposes.

Facilitating regular interactions of groups in a nearby area also instills a feeling of solidarity among the members. It provides the women a feeling of being part of a larger whole, a collective of SHGs. This boosts their confidence, creates a platform to face and deal with the world and broadens their horizon.

Roles of VO

• Forum for peer learning
• A forum for mutual support, monitoring and evaluation
• Integrating and interfacing forum
• Cross learning forum
• An opportunity to keep in touch with the groups
• Forum for cost sharing
• A solidarity building forum

Sanghamitra Mahila Sangh is a federation promoted by SeSTA uniting all the SHGs within a block expressing solidarity and mobilising collective action on social issues, financial intermediation. It also acts as a platform to establish linkages with different institutions. Two members from each cluster are elected to represent the federation.

To bring harmony between different linguistic, religious, ethnic groups, Sanghamitra Mahila Sangh organises annual congregation called Mahadhiveshan. The members gather, share their achievements, do peer learning and plan for the future. It is organised, managed and financed by the women members.

This Mahadhiveshan also acts as a platform to give expression to the joys and sorrows of women and show their strength to various stakeholders. Each Mahadhiveshan gives renewed strength and energy to the SHG members.

Why SHGs?

SeSTA has primarily adopted a group-based approach to working with the poor people. Groups are useful in bringing together poor people, build a synergy by pooling their energies and resources, promote values of mutual help and co-operation and also build economies of scale in providing inputs to the community. The Self Help Groups organised around savings and credits have been found as a very effective mechanism to organise the poor people, especially the women, in order to create a base in the village. SHGs are primarily organisations of the peoples’ own, based on voluntarism, where a fair amount of their own initiative is brought into play. Following are some of the important objectives of promoting SHGs-

• organise poor around their own resources
• savings and credit is in itself a livelihood intervention – it smoothens consumption, reduces vulnerabilities and also finances existing livelihoods
• Prepares members to further livelihoods interventions
• Mobilise finance from banks for livelihoods
• Reaches out to women systematically
• Help women address various issues related to well being

Why Women

The rationale for focusing on women is based on “equity” and “efficiency” arguments. On efficiency grounds, practitioners have noted that women tend to be much better money managers, more conscientious with loan utilization and more disciplined regarding repayment. Women are also observed to form better groups as they are less prone to conflicts that could derail the group process of regular savings and on-time loan repayment. Also, several researchers note that when women control income in the household they tend to spend more on family welfare—health, nutrition, education, etc. and less on personal consumption.

On equity grounds targeting women is an affirmative action favouring women as the more disadvantaged among poor households. There are inherent inequalities in the society that have traditionally accorded a secondary status to women. In many spheres, women have been deprived of their just rights and entitlements. Societal pressures isolate women in the home or confine them to the private sphere of the reproductive activities in the home or hamlet and restrict their access in the public realms of workplace, market place and public decision-making forums. Women’s external exposure, access to information, resources, physical mobility and public voice became severely limited.

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