Collective Action and Community Development in Rural India

The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Rajasthan, India was evaluated to determine the effect of SHG membership on the autonomy of household decision making, political engagement and on inclusion in financial and labor markets. The study concluded that SEWA membership led to greater participation in group programs, increased control over domestic decision-making, greater awareness of where to express grievances (especially in regards to drinking water), willingness to take action on grievances and thus increased satisfaction with state of services. Women increased their participation in the non-agricultural labor force, their access boosted by SEWA’s vocational and financial training services. This training also increased their access to credit markets. There was however no evidence for increased income. Desai and Joshi found that NGOs played a critical role in Rajasthan for linking marginalized populations with the state. SEWA was able to facilitate community organization, disseminate information, motivate intra-group cooperation and lower the costs of collective decision-making. 

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