In India, the status of women was always not similar to what men have had. India has a cultural history from where it can be analysed that the position of women kept on changing in different periods. Tracing to the historical events, we find that there were certain practices followed which deprived the women their rights and opportunities. Practices like sati, prohibition to widow remarriage, female foeticide, child marriage, confining them to home and no educational facilities and many more. Later on, several legislations were passed like- Act prohibiting the practice of sati (in 1850), The Hindu Widow Remarriage Act, 1856, The Special Marriage Act III of 1872, The Married Women’s Property Act, 1874, The Child Marriage Act, 1929, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 etc. All of the Legislations provided opportunities to women but somehow, they were not getting enforced and implemented in the society. The Indian Constitution dealt with provisions for women protection and equality and considering them equal as to men through Fundamental Rights. The sole objective of the Legislature and the Constitution makers was to empower the women which means to treat women with same status as to what men have in the society. This in turn helps and encourages women to participate in social, economic and political fields. At present, though women are excelling in all the fields but the unequal treatment is still a persisting issue and some of the challenges that are faced by women thereby affecting their rights are – education, poverty, health, safety. With several legislations and provisions, there still exists a wide gap between men and women with respect to education. Poverty is also one of the main concerns as poor women are being exploited and forced to work as domestic helps in the society to earn a livelihood. In order to earn more, they work in several houses which affects their health and safety as well. Eradicating the above concerns would help women to achieve equal status in society. The Government of India has taken one step further and introduced various schemes and programmes which help women. One of such schemes is – Swayamsidha Scheme.
The literal meaning of the term ‘swayamsidha’ means – to help oneself. It is an initiative taken by Government and it was launched by Ministry of Women and Child Development of Government of India in 2001. This Scheme special preference to Self Help Groups (SHGs). This is literally a group where it is self-governed by individual people who form a group. These people have similar background economically and socially and here they contribute collectively. Here, people contribute some amount to help one of their members who is in need. Under this Scheme, it is specifically focussing on women taking part in SHGs further making them more empowered. By engaging women in these groups, they become independent and solve their own problems. The sole objective of the Government was to promote women empowerment. Involvement in such groups make them more confident and also self-awareness among them rises. They inculcate the habit of saving money in order to help others thereby helping themselves. Apart from all these, they also start having a control on their economic resources, they also involve themselves in local level planning and hence, through all of the above activities they tend to become independent.
Objectives of the scheme
- Women Empowerment- It is about providing women with the power and control of their own lives to become independent and to live according to their whims and fancies and also, to have a stand and opinion in all the fields of the society. Through this initiative taken by the Government, women are getting chance to interact with different people, having a financial control, taking part in local activities as well etc.
- Change of their Status in the Society – Once they start saving and contributing in the SHGs in order to help other women in their group, they tend to control over their economic resources. This further makes them independent and creates a sense of freedom amongst them. Other people respect them and their opinions are also thereby considered.
- To educate them- They not only become independent financially or economically but also get to know about their legal, political and social rights through interacting with each other. They learn about hygiene, health and safety as well.
Contribution of the government:
It is a unified scheme for the women at a total cost of Rs. 116.30 Crores. It benefitted about 9, 30,000 women with 53,000 self-help groups set up, village societies of about 26,500 and 650 block societies as well.
One of the most important constituents of the scheme was the implementation of block-specific composite projects for 4-5 years. Thus, SHGs formed should be on a self-sustaining mode by the end of 5 years. To organize the groups, involvement of the communitywasessential. Towards this, innovative schemes and programmes were undertaken by both the State Governments and the Central Government to involve the community and bring about merging of schemes.
How does it function
Firstly, there are committee members who basically implements this scheme. Their main task is to identify the area where this Scheme would be particularly implemented. Then they world provide with certain recommendations in order to create SHGs. The following are the authorities where people can contact for this scheme:
- Municipal Corporation
- Gram Panchayat
- Project Implementation Agencies in a Particular Area
It has resulted in incredible enhancement in the status of rural poor women and also has helped in providing skill development to the poor women for activities such as income generation. The evaluation report suggested that this scheme has strengthened their position in society and the social awareness is visible. Economic condition of women has definitely upgraded after joining the SHGs through this Scheme. Women participation in politics has also increased and some of them have been elected to local bodies. The Scheme got over in March 2008.
Analysing the development of women, we find that there has been a tremendous shift from history. Initially, women were not given independence and equal status. There was lack of women participation in economic, social and political fields. With the introduction of schemes, programmes, the Government has taken a step further in order to empower them. We have many other schemes apart from ‘Swayamsidha’ for the purpose of making women independent at every stage of administration. We can see the improvement of these schemes through the women participation in our country. Therefore, it an appreciative step taken by the Government.
“The views of the authors are personal“
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