2021 GS2 Answer

Q.  Can the vicious cycle of gender inequality, poverty and malnutrition be broken through microfinancing of women SHGs? Explain with examples.

Question from UPSC Mains 2021 GS2 Paper

Model Answer: 

Microfinancing of women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) can play a significant role in breaking the vicious cycle of gender inequality, poverty, and malnutrition. By providing financial services to women who may otherwise lack access to traditional banking systems, microfinance can empower them economically, socially, and politically. This empowerment can, in turn, have positive ripple effects on poverty reduction and improved nutrition. The following points explain how microfinancing of women’s SHGs can help break this cycle, along with examples:

Economic empowerment:

Microfinance provides women with access to credit, savings, and insurance services, enabling them to start or expand income-generating activities. As women become more financially independent, they can make decisions about household resources, contributing to poverty reduction. For example, the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has successfully provided microloans to millions of poor women, helping them engage in small businesses and improve their families’ economic well-being.

Improved decision-making power:

Women who participate in SHGs often gain greater decision-making power within their households. This increased agency can lead to better allocation of resources, including more investment in food, healthcare, and education. In turn, these investments can help address malnutrition and contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty. For example, studies have shown that women in SHGs in India are more likely to participate in household decision-making and invest in their children’s education and health.

Enhanced social status:

Participation in SHGs can improve women’s social status by providing them with a platform to engage with their communities, develop leadership skills, and address social issues collectively. This increased social capital can help challenge traditional gender norms and promote gender equality. For example, the Kudumbashree program in Kerala, India, has empowered women through microfinance and SHGs, leading to increased participation in local governance and decision-making.

Better nutrition and health outcomes:

Women’s economic empowerment through microfinance can result in improved nutrition and health outcomes for their families. When women have access to financial resources, they are more likely to invest in nutritious food and healthcare services, benefiting both themselves and their children. For example, research in Nepal has shown that women’s participation in microfinance programs is associated with better child nutrition outcomes.

Intergenerational benefits:

As women become more empowered through microfinance and participation in SHGs, they are better positioned to educate and empower their daughters, breaking the cycle of gender inequality for future generations. For example, studies in various countries have demonstrated that women who participate in microfinance programs are more likely to invest in their daughters’ education, promoting gender equality in the long term.

While microfinancing of women’s SHGs can contribute significantly to breaking the cycle of gender inequality, poverty, and malnutrition, it is essential to recognize that microfinance is not a panacea. To achieve sustainable and lasting change, microfinance initiatives should be complemented by other interventions, such as education and skill development programs, legal and policy reforms promoting gender equality, and access to quality healthcare services. By addressing these multiple dimensions, the interrelated challenges of gender inequality, poverty, and malnutrition can be more effectively tackled.

More Questions:
UPSC Factory App
Get everything you need for upsc preparation with just one click! Install now!