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Self-help groups: capital, connection, and inclusion for women

A self-help group (SHG) is a group of 15 to 20 people who meet together each week to support each other financially and encourage one another. Many groups are made up entirely of women. SHGs are an incredibly effective way for people to lift themselves out of poverty.

But their impact goes beyond money. Self-help groups offer connection, support, and inclusion for people who are too often overlooked or left out: women and people with disabilities.

Creating capital

SHG members are often the poorest and most vulnerable people in the community when they first join the group. They start by saving small amounts regularly, and then begin taking out small loans from the group at a low interest rate. Members often use the money to start or expand their own businesses. They also receive small-business training.

"The business provides consistent income for us. Being able to provide for my family means I do not have to rely on others for help any more."- Sahra, Somaliland

Forging relationships

Members of SHGs find they benefit from far more than just financial success. The groups focus on building strong, trusting relationships between members. Some groups also meet regularly for prayer and worship together.

"I can’t express in words what my group means to me. They are my sisters – we support each other in everything." - Meseret, Ethiopia

Members of a self-help group in Ethiopia keep detailed records on savings and loan progress.
Members of a self-help group in Ethiopia keep detailed records on savings and loan progress.

Empowering and including

Belonging to the group helps members realize they have the ability and resources to improve their own situation. They gain new confidence and a voice. Many women report improved gender relations in their homes and communities. In Myanmar, Tearfund’s partner The Leprosy Mission is using SHGs to transform the lives of people with disabilities.

"Before, people with disabilities had to hide and we were alone. But now we can come forward and live among other people. We have self-respect."- U Soe Win, Myanmar

During Women’s History Month, we hope to see more women worldwide rise above injustice and reach their God-given potential. You can help us. Your small gift today can help women and people with disabilities join self-help groups and lift themselves out of poverty.

This post originally appeared in Footsteps 103.

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