Programme on Women's Right to Property and Economic Empowerment

Women are unable to access credit from formal institutions as they hardly have any property or assets to mortgage. The Women’s Resource Development Programme (Streedhan Vikas Prakalp), started in 1990 is a savings and credit programme that works through self-help groups (SHGs) towards strengthening the economic self-reliance of rural women in drought-prone villages of Purandar taluka of Pune district and Parner taluka of Ahmednagar district. Women, largely from poor households save small amounts every month and access easy and low interest loans without any collateral. Local women from each village facilitate group meetings, making decision-making decentralised and corruption-free, with group members sanctioning the loans. Recovery is encouraged through neighbourhood peer-groups, without coercion or interference of rich men or law enforcement agencies. MASUM’s interventions have resulted in the abolition of high-interest small scale money-lending in these villages. In order to strengthen women’s right to credit, SHGs are encouraged to open accounts with a nationalised bank, thus being able to access loans from the bank as and when required. Not only have women used credit for daily needs such as children’s education or stocking up food, but numerous assets have been generated on women’s names. In accordance with a progressive GR of the Maharashtra government, in 2007, MASUM coined the term ‘Ghar Doghanche’ and campaigned to convert 9000 households on joint ownership of husband and wife. This campaign was then picked up by NGOs throughout the state. A campaign to enhance women’s ownership of land has also been undertaken with encouraging results.