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Self-help groups: new vehicle for political outreach

After the cooperative banks and credit societies,the politicians have now turned towards self-help groups (SHG) to reach out to the masses.

Written by Ajay Khape | Pune |
October 8, 2009 1:19:06 am

After the cooperative banks and credit societies,the politicians have now turned towards self-help groups (SHG) to reach out to the masses.

There are around two lakh SHGs in the state and 40,000 in the district,especially those run by women. The setting up of these groups was so far seen as a tool to empower women by improving their economic status.

“The network of cooperative sector had been used by political parties for their interest in many ways. Now,the mushrooming of the SHGs has also provided a good alternative to the parties. The SHGs are a part of the grassroots level and give easy access to political parties to reach to masses. There always remains a fear that the SHG movement can suffer if it is exploited by political parties,” said Sanyogita Dhamdhere,representative of Centre for Advocacy and Research.

She said a good number of SHGs have come up in last few years and it is up to the respective groups on deciding their course of action. “If these SHGs drift from the main objective of empowering the poor,especially the women,and merely become organisation for political use,then it will bring bad name for the entire sector,” Dhamdhere said,adding that the SHGs have to carefully participate in political activities. A number of SHGs may find it difficult to keep away from this activity as it is a good revenue source,she said.

Supriya Sule,MP,who works closely with women SHGs,however,said there is no harm in SHGs participating in the political process. “The objective of SHGs is to empower the poor and their participation in politics should be seen as an opportunity for them to get close to power or be a part of it,” she said.

The formation of an SHG is aimed at improving the financial status of its members and its political participation will further empower the members socially,Sule said.

At another level,more than merely participating in the efforts of political parties,Sulbha Ubale,hitherto known more for her activities as the coordinator of a SHG than her work in Pimpri Chinchwad as corporator,has managed to bag the candidature for the Assembly polls on Shiv Sena ticket. Founder of Swamini Mahila Bachat Gat Mahasangh that recently made its entry into international market by exporting 80,000 polythene bags to New York prepared from its self-owned unit at Talawade,Ubale is the Sena candidate from Bhosari.

Ubale admits that she has been using the network of her SHG for the election campaign.

“I have been working hard for the SHG and hence its members are campaigning for me. I don’t find it wrong,” the Sena candidate said.

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