Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA)- A Microfinance Success Story in Andhra Pradesh
Empowering Women'Export orders for the pickles produced by DWCRA group.' 'Export order from South Africa worth Rs 0.8 million' - these were just two of the success stories of the Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) groups in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (AP). While DWCRA's success was attributed to many factors, analysts felt that the government had played an important role in the success of the movement. The involvement of several corporates, too was responsible for making the program successful.
The benefits of DWCRA were many. The microfinance available through DWCRA helped rural women start income generating activities.
Not only that, women were also becoming more aware of their rights and more socially responsible. According to newspaper reports, DWCRA had made rural women realize the importance of education. The number of girls going to schools also increased due to this awareness.
However, not all were convinced about the success of the DWCRA program. Some analysts were critical about the role played by the government. They felt that the government was using DWCRA as a political weapon rather than to change the lives of the rural poor. They also pointed out that lack of training and failure to adapt to industry's needs, would lead to the inevitable failure of some of the DWCRA groups.
In spite of all these criticisms, it was generally accepted that the DWCRA program had been successful in bringing about much needed change and awareness among the rural women. Functioning of DWCRAIn September 1982, the Government of India (GOI) launched the DWCRA program2 under the Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP)3. The program was started in 50 districts (all over India) on a pilot basis. This was the first rural development program which focused entirely on the development of women and children.
In addition to implementing welfare schemes for rural women, DWCRA also aimed at involving the women in development activities by organizing them into groups. Besides, it focused on social issues such as health, education, sanitation, nutrition and safe drinking water in rural areas (Refer Table I for objectives of DWCRA).
The administrative set-up of DWCRA involved five levels - village, block, district, state and national (Refer Figure I). At the village level, self help groups (SHGs) popularly known as DWCRA groups were formed. Generally, each DWCRA group had 15-20 women members. Every group chose a leader, called the organizer, who conducted group meetings and maintained the group's accounts.
Initially, the focus of the groups was on saving money. Most of the groups started with the motto - 'save a rupee per day.' Every month, the savings were deposited at the post office or in the banks.
The groups also extended credit to needy members from their savings. While in general, DWCRA groups met once a month, some groups got together more often.
At these monthly meetings, groups decided on the targets regarding the amount to be saved, the rules and regulations regarding loans, and the interest rate charged on the loans. A group which successfully achieved its savings target became eligible for availing of credit from the bank for starting income generation activity. Based on their skills, the group members collectively decided on the income generation activity that they would undertake. At the monthly meetings, these women also discussed their problems and tried to find solutions. The state government deployed a gram sevika (village coordinator) for every village to oversee the implementation of the DWCRA program.
The DWCRA program was funded by both the central and the state governments in the ratio of 75:25 respectively. In addition, every DWCRA group could avail of a revolving fund4 of Rs 15,000 to meet its capital expenditure such as purchase of machinery.
The total amount of the revolving fund was shared equally by both the central and state governments. In 1994-1995, the amount was increased to Rs. 25,000...
(Rated by 2 Council Members)