Friendships, Networks and Solidarity: Women’s Political Participation through Self-Help Group Memberships
(Pilot Study)
A Peer-Reviewed Publication

Authors:
Ms. Ishita Gupta
Ms. Srijita Chakrabarti
Ms. Sugandha Singh Parmar

Date: 27 October 2022

Abstract:

The introduction of reservations for women in India's local governance gave us a fresh perspective to look at women's emancipation; now, there was an opportunity to observe, analyse and examine the intended political empowerment to women at the grassroots. Several years before this initiative, the Self Help Groups (SHG) were introduced in the late 1980s to empower women in rural areas by mobilising them as an organised collective, facilitating interactions and financial literacy. We observed that SHGs could potentially impact women's political attitudes positively. However, while the stated intent of SHGs is to foster and facilitate women's leadership, we could not determine from the literature in what ways SHGs have facilitated women's leadership in political organisations or governance. We found very few studies that have examined the impact of the SHGs in enabling women leaders in political organisations and governance. Through this pilot study, we aimed to examine how mobilising through SHGs is strategically relevant to women in politics and governance. We interviewed women who were a part of SHGs from 4 states in India and were members of the Gram Panchayat or have actively contested elections and stakeholders as our key informants. With a small sample, we observed that women leaders like Sarpanch, ward members, and political candidates,  who were members of an SHG for over 5 years, had all received support from their group members in campaigning and decision-making. Women felt more confident working with the community and interacting with government officials and political parties. Other factors like support from family and, in some cases, political parties also played a role in women's initial steps towards becoming candidates for elections.  It is proposed to expand this study to a pan-India research to widen the scope and areas of investigation.

Keywords: Political Empowerment, Women and Politics, Women and Governance, SHG

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