At the end of the study trip, Adele, Ashley, Fiona and Karen were joined by Eddie to reflect on the implications of the study tour for the SRG movement back in the U.K.
Their findings were clear and direct. To avoid repetition, I will use just the one descriptor here, Self-Reliant Group, or Group for short.
- In India many of the Self-Reliant Groups are put together for a purpose, whereas in the U.K. they tend to self-assemble. We should try the Indian way.
- Self-Reliant Groups in the U.K. are orientated more around connection, and less around economics. In India it is the other way around. We might shift the balance towards the Indian way.
- The economic part of the Indian model is different. There is more emphasis on savings, and more clarity about the use of savings, with a clear focus on within group loans. Loans are seen as a benefit of being in a Self-Reliant Group, and are easier to apply for. A member taking a loan feels accountable to her Group, and to the federation of Groups.
- There is transparency within and between the Indian Groups, everything is laid bare in the records kept by the women themselves, their Groups, and the Federation of Groups. We can learn from this.
- The Indian women feel comfortable and find utility in asking a woman from another Group to audit their books, to make sure there are no errors. They choose to do this, for their own satisfaction. It also helps the Group to secure loans from the banks. We should try this in the U.K.
- There is a light, efficient structure around the formation and sustenance of Groups in India. It is paid for and owned by Self-Help Groups. There is a mentoring role for experienced Group members to help new Groups. The dynamic between those supporting Groups to start and sustain and the women in the Groups feels different, healthier in India.
- The ‘revolving fund’ developed in Maharashtra State and used by the Women’s Liberation Organisation for the Groups they support could be used to incentivise U.K. Groups. Half of the money going to each Group is used for immediate internal lending, and half is used to match fund loans made from savings.
- The context has developed in India, and it needs to develop in the U.K.:
- The organisations leading the movement trust to federations of Self-Reliant Groups to run the show
- There is a banking system that works, that supports women not for some sense of corporate responsibility but because the Groups repay their loans, on time.
- India is more environmentally aware. It is a country that will feel the brunt of climate change sooner and with more force.