Are Women Self Help Group Members Economically More Empowered in Left-Run Municipalities?

Measuring economic empowerment attained by SHG members

This paper examines whether the person controlling the income that self-help group (SHG) members earn depends upon the political party ruling the municipality where the SHG is situated. An estimate of the level of economic empowerment attained by members can be made depending on whether the woman who is an SHG member or her husband controls the income she earns.

The paper considers two parties, namely, the Left Front, a coalition comprising Leftist parties, and the Indian National Congress. The paper is based on a field study of 240 SHG members in six municipalities in West Bengal, India. Study results find strong evidence that:

  • SHG movement in West Bengal has strong cross effects with party allegiance;
  • Supporters of the more organized Left Front find it easier to establish a voice in such SHGs.

The findings lead to concerns that SHGs could be labelled as party organs, a change in political control over the municipality could threaten their sustainability and the empowerment of its members. Given this backdrop, there is concern that SHG membership does not empower women. On the contrary, women could gain SHG membership as a result of being empowered.

About this Publication

By Husain, Z., Mukerjee, D. & Dutta, M.