Nanayam groups (Self Help Groups)

By 1995, the concept of Self Help Group came into effect as part of women-in-development.  There was a gradual shift from the traditional village level Sangha to a more structured and refined self help group mode that gave disadvantaged women to gain greater stake in the process. Gender impetus and gender-centricity was the integral element in SHG approach resulted in increasing the savings and internal thrift abilities of many hundreds and thousands of poor women. SPEECH in consultation with women members had named ‘Nanayam’ which denotes couple of meanings – coin or integrity.

Being federated themselves, the women-led self help groups not only involved in addressing savings and thrift, but also handled other social issues such as violence against women, dowry harassments and debt traps. Since local businesses and earning economic income were priorities, these hosts of self help groups had also looked at issues relevant to sustainable markets. An innovative attempt was evident where Nanayam Credit Cards were in use by the groups of women to have fair price and access to doorstep credit facilities. A local business initiative called Nanayam Store was set up in Tiruchuli which enabled many poor women to gain access to procure essential goods for family running.

Debt trap and its serious consequences were the major issues being handled by the self help groups. There was a gradual disappearance of atrocities entertained by the local money sharks and money lenders resulted in increase in purchasing abilities of rural poor women. In addition, there were impressive social changes from within, where women from the self help groups had started realizing how important for them to provide school education to their children, with special attention to the well-being of girl children.

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