A Self Help Group (SHG) is a democratic institution owned and managed by women. It is an association of 10 to 20 women from similar socio-economic background and a voluntary effort to improve their economic and social wellbeing. These women meet weekly for savings and credit and to discuss well being, livelihood, gender issues, rights, entitlements, etc and extend mutual support to address related issues.
Once formed and active these works as in interface for them to deal with the external world: village, panchayat, society, bank, and the government, in an effective manner. Not to mention that it becomes a medium for solidarity enabling women empowerment by providing them the space and voice to negotiate and participate as equals, both within the family and in the society.
SeSTA believes that Self Help Groups can be an effective platform to empower women and help them resolve issues by reducing their vulnerability. It provides handholding support to these groups, starting from its formation till it evolves as a socially and financially sustainable institution.
In order to stabilize the group processes and systems in SHGs, SeSTA conducts different types of trainings with women, centered on membership regulations, accounts, rights and entitlements, local governance, gender etc. so as to enhance their self-belief and capacities, both. Once the groups are established, it mobilizes the SHGs to form Village Level Organisations (VO) comprising of 10-15 SHGs from the same village or nearby villages. 2 to 3 members from each group are elected to participate in the cluster level meeting once in a month. The objective to have cluster meetings is to act as a pressure group uniting SHGs for addressing various issues related to atrocities on women, social evils, SHGs, health and governance. As the VO progresses women slowly start considering themselves as a part of a larger whole, a collective of SHGs, further boosting their confidence.
SeSTA then forms a federation uniting all the SHGs within a block expressing solidarity and mobilizing collective action on social issues and financial intermediation. This also acts as an authentic platform to establish linkages with different institutions. Two members from each cluster are elected to represent the federation.
Above all, SeSTA helps link different tiers of collectives to the key stakeholders in the local area for strengthening the local governance and service delivery systems.
Sanghamitra Mahila Sangh, one such federation promoted by SeSTA, organizes annual congregation called "Mahadhiveshan" to bring harmony between different linguistic, religious, and ethnic groups. Financed, organized and managed by the federation, the mega meeting has members gathering, sharing their achievements, learning with their peers and planning for the future.
In order to make the community self-reliant in a way that they can take informed decisions about their future on their own, it becomes vital to build a cadre of people from the community who would take responsibilities to ensure better living not only for themselves but also their village. Hence, SeSTA follows the grassroots engagement approach to groom a community based cadre and focuses on grooming women for the same. This cadre is not an extended arm of the SeSTA team, but is actually a pool of competent persons from the community who are accountable to and paid for by the community. SeSTA enhances the capabilities of this cadre and equips them with various skills. They are monitored and nested in the community institutions like SHGs, Village level organizations and Federations.
There are two categories of support interventions required to help a community move towards a desired future.