In my last post I mentioned the work I am doing for KGU, but due to the average attention span of a blog reader I thought it would be best to save my tails about the rest of my work with Chirag for a different post…
To give a little bit of background Micro-finance is the broad term used to describe micro-credit, and micro-loans, which are given out by self help groups. Self help groups (SHG) are groups of villagers (primarily 7-14 women) who pool their money together so members can buy things they would not normally be able to afford with their current income and savings status. The borrower then has to pay back the loan in monthly installments with interest. Chirag is affiliated with 149 Self Help Groups, with 1600 members; there is a total of 50,64,514 rupees of savings and 23,25,704 rupees in interloans dispersed through out the SHGs.
Recently I have started working with Lata ji, a woman at Chirag who heads the micro-finance initiatives in the region. I have been observing her work for the past two weeks trying to learn as much as I can about micro-finance in general and her role as a facilitator of microfinance for Chirag. I find it so intriguing and fascinating that villagers can empower themselves through a system as simple as pooling their money together. I was able to sit in on a 3-day micro-finance workshop held at Chirag where around 35 people came to learn about how to create, sustain, and facilitate micro-finance groups throughout India. While most of the discussion was in Kumani and Hindi the power points were in English so I was able to understand the main points they were discussing! Also they did a lot of mock self help group exercises where half of the members would sit in the middle of the room and create fake scenarios using beans as substitutes for rupees. It was great to see the developments that are being made in the micro-finance area and how Chirag as well as other NGOs are going about implementing and facilitating the process. There were a couple of key elements the workshop directors introduced as imperative for Self Help Groups to succeed: the need to interloan frequently, active facilitation, a consistent system for saving, member participation, high motivation for lending, and a high level of transparency. On the second day I got to attend an actual self help group meeting in a close by village called Chatola. It was great to see the dynamic and actual procession of a meeting.
What I am hoping to do through my observations and participation in the micro-finance program at Chirag is conduct a survey, questioning members of self help groups about their experiences with gender empowerment and sustainability since joining the SHG. I am hoping this will give some insight into new ways Chirag can improve their facilitation and education programs surrounding SHGs. Sustainability and Gender Empowerment are two key problems associated with microfinance. This is my first time trying to conduct any type of research so it will be a huge learning experience, but hopefully in the end it will provide Chirag with some useful information!
Here is a picture of the workshop I attended two weeks ago, as you can see there are no chairs…all meetings were conducted on the floor… very uncomfortable!
Until next time!