In India, where poverty is still a large issue, 70% of the Below the Poverty Line (BPL) population is made up of women. Additionally, Indian Society is intensely patriarchal, leading to a lack of voice and control for many women, especially in rural areas. One of the recent approaches instituted in India to alleviate women’s poverty and gender inequality is Women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs). Behind the use and popularity of this approach is the theory that that as women’s agency goes up poverty goes down. This study seeks to investigate this theory: as women gain agency, overall poverty decreases. Through empirical research, this study aims to test the theory on the ground. Making the theory concrete, this study conceptualizes Women’s Self Help Groups as vehicles of providing women with agency. It defines poverty narrowly as infant mortality, infant illness, and infant malnutrition. Finally it will look at utilization of health and nutritional services for children as an indicator of decreasing poverty. Working with women who are associated with an SHG sponsored by CORD a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Himachel Pradesh, using the specific tools of personal interviews, focus group discussions, and questionnaires, this paper first seeks to discover if women in SHGs have increased confidence and awareness of governmental nutritional and health services for children. Secondly, using the same methods, this study seeks to find if and how the combination of increased confidence and awareness of services resulting from involvement in an SHG cause an increased utilization of government health and nutrition services for children.
Rebekah Kurtz, ’15
Sponsor: Aparna Thomas