Women’s Contribution towards Conserving Culture and Development

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

-By Aishwarya Dasari


How much do we acknowledge the cultural diversity in India? Culture is a vast collective knit of features drawn from religion, customs, art, food, etc., and yet what makes it more complex and interesting is the diverse perceptions of this subject people have in our country. The true essence of embracing the culture and to a considerable extent using it to its advantage can be distinctly seen in rural India as women play a significant role by upholding their traditional beliefs, methods, practices and thus, conserving their identity as a tribal community.

The component that ties these women’s groups together can be linked to the concept of social space which originates from a geographical sense of belonging. We see how they beget various customs, art forms, skills, and livelihood practices from their ancestors, which they majorly bank upon to sustain economically to keep their family units intact. Women's primary role is “assumed” to be just a mere social contribution as by performing gender roles rather than recognizing how they share equal responsibility and the burden of elevating the socio-economic status of the household by engaging in laborious work.


Understanding ‘Development’

It is important to consider women’s participation as a fundamental parameter to measure economic development. Participation, not just as a female workforce but by encouraging inclusivity in socio-political decision making that allows women to express their opinions and attitudes towards social solidarity and democracy issues within their local governing structures. However, it is important to recognize that it is a challenging goal to achieve considering the gaps in gender politics which give us enough need and reason to push towards fair encouragement, involvement, and equality for women of the rural.

Following the example of the Self Help Group Model, it is one of the most celebrated implementations of the Government of Andhra Pradesh. These self-governed, peer-controlled, and informal associations in every village work towards organizing savings and credit activities. Most of the villages that reside in the interior regions are dominated by several tribal communities where people solely depend on forest resources and farming for their sustenance. Women from these communities mainly engage with non-timber forest produce for their livelihoods and use these peer groups as a platform to exchange their local knowledge, ideas, discuss cultural events, skills, participate in social activities and most importantly, help each other financially. Banks allow loans to bigger groups, like these SHG’s where this money is in turn distributed among women in each group who are facing immediate financial needs or requirements. As the interest rate charged on this loan amount by the government until 2019 was as low as 25 paise per rupee, it was easier for women to repay the loan money. However, the AP government this year has recently launched a zero-interest loan scheme by recognizing the plight of financial difficulties faced by women belonging to tribal communities due to the coronavirus outbreak. This SHG model came to the rescue of all women and encouraged them to participate and improve their decision-making skills. It has also greatly helped families with women being the breadwinners who had the burden of taking complete responsibility to meet the financial requirements of their children, hospital charges for their husbands & laws in addition to their regular necessities of life. These SHG groups have provided women with a platform where they not only meet their financial needs but also work as a safe umbrella where they can come together to share common issues and support each other in times of dire need and distress. This solidarity ensures a sense of security and gives them the mental strength to withstand tough times and collectively address problems when necessary.

Women exercising their ability to self-govern their resources not only adds to the aspect of empowerment but also becomes a strong determinant to measure the overall development of the community. It is important to keep the indigenous spirit of the rural alive by figuring out ways to transform local knowledge into sustainable practices. This is where the role of the state comes in where the establishment of cooperatives will not only celebrate culture & traditions but also preserve them and work towards the overall economic and social upliftment of the community.


References


1) Sharma, R. (2021, June 21). YSR Zero Interest Loan Scheme 2021: 90 Lakh Beneficiary Apply Online. Retrieved from https://pmmodiyojana.in/ysr-zero-interest-loan-scheme/

2) Das, Jayanta. (2016). ROLE OF SELF-HELP GROUPS IN SOCIOECONOMIC CHANGE OF RURAL WOMEN: A MICRO-LEVEL STUDY. Indian Streams Research Journal.

3) Marisennayya, Senapathy. (2020). Women Empowerment through Self Help Groups. 10.13140/RG.2.2.13101.03043.


About the Author:

Aishwarya Dasari is a postgraduate student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (M.A Social Work in Community Organisation and Development Practice) currently working as a research associate with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) on the issues of forest rights, displacement, and human-wildlife conflicts. She is interested in human rights work and loves to travel to places in search of stories about women, livelihoods, and communities that represent and carry the true essence of rural India. With the help of research and advocacy, Aishwarya aims to address the neglected problems of the underprivileged and take a step towards creating positive change.