How does what we saw in India compare with what we see in Scotland? Talking to the women in Scottish Groups has produced a model, what we call a dynamic model, that explains, we think, how Self-Reliant Groups leave their mark.

The first part of the Scottish model, which can be viewed here, deals with what holds women back. I don’t think we had sufficient insight from the study tour to make any meaningful observations on how Indian women are held back. Suffice perhaps to say there are as many economic, gender and class barriers to progress as there are in Scotland, possibly of a different intensity, and certainly of a different nature.

The second part of the Scottish model deals with how Self-Reliant Groups make a difference. This can be viewed here. The model stresses connection, the way it widens women’s cognitive bandwidth, creating an openness to new ideas. Agency plays a big part. The groups give the women a sense of control over their lives, a sense that the decisions they make can influence their future life chances, and those of their children. When they work, the groups lead women into new social networks that sustain their development.

There wasn’t the opportunity to ask the India women about this part of the model, but there is every reason to think that similar processes are at work. The Self-Help Affinity and Self-Help Groups are giving women control over their lives, and they are using that control to seize new opportunities.

But we might reason that there is much more going on in the Indian groups. There is more focus on trust building, backed up by a hard empathy between the members.

We saw also greater emphasis on economics, creating the space for women to express entrepreneurial behaviour and invest in family. (Not all the Indian women are entrepreneurs, but all appear to be highly entrepreneurial).

Are the Indian groups more focused on social issues and community development than Scottish groups? Possibly. Major social issues like climate change certainly featured strongly in India.

The last part of the model here deals with the way WEvolution and other U.K. NGO’s support the Self-Reliant Groups. The situation in India appears to differ in several ways:

  • The organisation to sustain the Indian groups is owned by the women. They pay for it. Federations of groups are the accountable structure.
  • The organisation infrastructure is much lighter than in U.K. A single Enterprise Officer or Development Officer in U.K. Supports around 20 Self- Reliant Groups at present. In India they would be supporting around 150, and accordingly doing different things.
  • The culture of support is different in India. There is an aversion to dependency. As Aloysius put it, “If I come to your house and share your burden, I create a dependency, but I don’t solve the problem. Self-Help Affinity Groups create a context for people to solve their own problems.”

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