Farm to firm: More women at work, self-help groups hold key

The Economic survey hailed the increase in the Female Rural Labor Force Participation Rate (FLFPR) from 19.7% in 2018-19 to 27.7% in 2020-21 as a “positive development” and shows that it’s time to improve their skills.
It also says that India’s FLFPR is likely to be underestimated, with reforms in survey design and content needed for more accurate data collection. “Self-help groups (SHGs), which have demonstrated their resilience and flexibility in times of Covid, can be an effective tool to appeal to women’s growing willingness to work. SHG 1.2 crore, including 88% of all women SHGs, serving 14.2 million households,” the report said.
Surveys show that 75% of rural female workers work in the agricultural sector. “This shows the need to upskill and create jobs for women in agriculture-related fields such as food processing. Here, self-help groups (SHGs) can play an important role in shaping the potential of rural women into concrete development outcomes in terms of financial inclusion, livelihood diversification and skills development.” the report said.
The survey states that SHGs are well placed to facilitate rural development in general. “Showing their resilience and flexibility in crises, including Covid, needs to be regularized for lasting rural transformation. This includes addressing regional disparities in deepening the SHG movement, transforming SHG members into micro-entrepreneurs… and including the less privileged. under the auspices of SHG,” it stated.
It recognizes how SHG is supporting efforts to reach people with welfare measures during the pandemic and highlights how they are at the forefront of the production of masks, hand sanitizers and protective gear, raising awareness , provides essential goods, operates community kitchens, and assists with delivery of financial services.
“The production of masks by SHGs is a remarkable contribution. More than 16.9 crore masks have been produced by SHGs under the National Rural Livelihood Mission,” it said.


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