Stakeholders stressed the need to put in place the required legal framework to ensure the sustainability of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) as absence of legal status is posing difficulties to the groups to access credit services and other technical supports.
Alemitu Umod, State Minister of Women and Children tells The Ethiopian Herald that SHGs perfectly suit to the long term aspiration of the government in poverty alleviation and women empowerment.
Indicating that the government recognizes SHGs' role as an essential tool to mobilize small saving at grass root level, Alemitu notes that the cumulative impact of such groups would be bigger at national context.
The ministry and other stakeholders have been working to strengthen self help groups but legal framework gap has been identified as a major obstacle facing the SHGs. There must be legal ground and status to transform the groups into unions.
"Smooth and efficient functioning of SHGs depends on the provision of the required legal recognition and technical support but we have learnt that this has been a missing link stymieing the groups' sustainability and growth," she says adding, "Hence it is up to the minister and other stakeholders to find the means to address the shortcomings and bridge the gap."
Self help groups are imperative that they would contribute to the socioeconomic well beings of women in particular and the country in general. SHGs are recipes to making women independent. Thorough studies should be conducted and assessed to put in place the necessary legislation to further strengthen and support the self help groups, the State Minister adds.
Consortium of Self Help-Group Approach Promoters (CoSAP), Director Yosef Akalu for his part states that the concept of self help group was introduced 16 years ago. Since then, it has gone through progress and challenges.
The approach is considered as one of the effective ways to change the life of the poorest sections of society, particularly women. It is critical to build the confidence of women to believe that they do not need handouts but self motivation to improve their livelihood, Yosef says.
Self help groups approach is very effective intervention and encourages women with low income to begin self-initiated changes. However, despite slight improvements, lack of legislation and capital is challenging the sustainability of the groups. Absence of legal status is making it difficult for the SHGs to receive government supports such as access to credit, space and others.
Charities & Societies Agency Deputy General Director Fantaye Gezahegn says the agency strictly follows and regulates whether those nongovernmental organizations engaged in financing and supporting self help groups comply with the proclamations. There are many projects that are being implemented in the area and the agency in this regard is closely monitoring that the finance reach the target groups.