Women play an important role in various income-generating activities towards improvement of their family incomes and livelihoods. One popular platform for women to do so is self-help groups (SHGs). SHGs are growing widely in different corners of rural Assam creating opportunities for women to be empowered through entrepreneurial activities, farming, livestock rearing, etc. which effect increase in income, spending capacity and saving habits of rural women. However, in many parts of Assam, women’s lives and families are being ripped apart because of microfinance loan debts which they have to repay at high-interest rates and short repayment periods and. These MFIs often lack transparency and a monitoring system.
In order to enhance the capacity of women collectives to raise their voices against these gaps and challenges in addressing the ESCP rights, North East Network organised a 2-day capacity building workshop for its twenty-eight women peer leaders from the community on the issue of MFIs and its impact on women and SHGs as a tool for socio-economic transformation and not being limited to financial intermediation alone. Representatives from Seven Sisters Development Assistance (SeSTA) shared how women collectives through SHG can address social, economic, political and cultural issues collectively and bring changes in their community through forming Village Organisations. The discussion also focused on the importance of the SHG guideline in order to create transparency and accountability in the credit system.
On the second day of the capacity building programme, the discussion was on gender, patriarchy and how power relation plays a role in the community based on identity in regards to the decision-making process. No discussion on economic alleviation of the rural poor can take place without understanding the role of gender and the limitations of patriarchy. Our team comprising of Rashmi Rekha Bora and Nilanju Dutta took the peer leaders through the dynamics of power relations in communities of the region and how it impacts decision making processes in the social and economic spheres.