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Objectives: Based on original survey data in Dehradun district of the state of Uttarakhand (India), this study aims to ascertain the impact of membership to Self-help groups on political participation of women including the electoral and non-electoral participation.
Methods/Statistical analysis: Convenient sampling was used to collect the data. 400 women members of SHG in Sahaspur and 100 in Chakrata in Dehradun were interviewed. Respondents were asked to answer Yes or No to a series of questions regarding the various dimensions of political participation and as to how membership has led to development of skills conducive for political participation. To gauge the effectiveness of women pradhans/ward members, questions pertaining to their work in the villages were asked. Survey results are analyzed using percentages and presented by way of bar graphs for more clarity of the results.
Findings: The study is novel as it throws light on the political engagement of women in two regions of Dehradun in a broad range of activities (electoral as well as non-electoral) and not just in terms of voting behaviour and proportion of elected representatives. Memberships of SHGs help in increasing the visibility of women in village and positively impact their political participation by developing skills conducive for political participation. The association with these groups help members in joining politics and performing better as elected representatives. The political participation of women and performance was found to be higher in all respects in Sahaspur as compared to Chakrata. The interviews suggest that the difference in impact is arising due to a variety of factors such as education, employment, society norms and division of labour within a household. The study highlights that membership to SHGs is not sufficient for higher political participation unless it is accompanied by efficient and dedicated self-help promoting institutions, supporting infrastructure, investments in women’s education and employability and most importantly change in social norms regarding women’s involvement in public life.
Application/Improvements: The study indicates that SHGs have non-credit benefits in terms of political empowerment of women. Therefore, the government needs to take steps not only to prevent the disintegration of SHGs but also promote their formation in underserved regions. One of the important policy suggestions that come out of this study is the establishment of dedicated self- help promoting institutions.