The formation of SHGs has been made a mandatory in all watershed development programmes in the country. The Project Implementing Agency shall constitute SHGs in the watershed areas. These groups are homogenous groups having common interest who are dependent on the watershed area such as landless labourers, agricultural labourers, rural women, shepherds, scheduled castes/tribes etc. Around 50 per cent of villagers who are directly or indirectly dependent on watersheds should generally be enrolled as members in the SHGs. Evidences show that the SHGs are formed mostly women oriented activities. Separate SHGs should be formulated for women, Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). SHGs function mostly as thrift, savings and lending groups and experiences show that there are vast differences in functioning. In addition, the SHGs are also formed for activities such as coconut palm thatches knitting, running canteen, sweet stalls, grocery shop, petty shop, rice mundy, textile shops etc (Palanisami et al, 2002). Though the SHGs generate positive impact on the rural economy through empowering women and enhanced rural income of those participant households, the issue of group size is a long standing one. It needs further investigations with specific reference to the watershed context (Joy et al, 2004). Some SHGs perform well and in some watersheds they become defunct or inactive or sometimes dissolved due to internal conflicts among the members. The reach of SHGs, in the watershed context, also seems to be rather limited, thus restricting the scope of participatory activities that can be taken up through these bodies. While in some cases SHGs have provided the base for non-land based activities. In general, only a few groups have diversified into other activities. On the whole, SHGs activity has been peripheral to the watershed development programmes and there is a need to explore the possibilities for bringing SHGs in mainstream. Though, the status of women in the society improved substantially in recent periods, still the gender inequality remain widespread particularly in developing countries like India. At the same time, experiences from developing countries show that improvements in womenâ€™s education, health, employment opportunities and social participation contribute to economic growth in developing economies. Investment in women not only benefits women themselves but also has relatively high social returns reflected in an improvement in their childrenâ€™s welfare and a reduction of fertility, poverty and gender bias (Summers, 1992; Subbarao et al, 1993; Quibria, 1993). Thus, women based SHGs institutions are desirable not only from the perspective of social justice, but also because of the substantial social and economic benefits which result directly from enhancing womenâ€™s social and economic status both within the household and in society as a whole. 1. What is the role of SHGs in developments of women and the community? 2. Illustrate a certain example where you can prove a similar impact of SHGs in your state.
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