It has become quite obvious that after more than half a century of planned economic development, marginal, micro and small-scale enterprises have neither been absorbed by large-scale economic activities, nor even significantly displaced by them. The urban and rural poor have increasingly come to rely on the informal sector as an alternative to employment as a direct result of unemployment, migration and other problems associated with development.

Experiences with conventional development strategies that emphasize large-scale interventions have revealed that such approaches may have serious limitations; in addition, the changing economic conditions especially since  early 1980s have further heightened the need to reexamine these strategies. Given the general context, micro and small-scale enterprises in both formal and informal economic sectors are now being proposed as a new alternative for achieving sustainable socioeconomic development.

Women, particularly in the informal sector where women account for about half and sometimes more of the entire sector’s work force often generate such enterprises.The concept of micro-credit to the poor member of the society by organising them in to group was the brain child Bangladeshi Professor Mohammad Ynus, the founder of the Grameen Bank. It started as a research project in 1976 and developed into a full fledged bank in 1983. In India, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) introduced a pilot project for linking SHGs with banks in 1992, which proved successful. In the past few years there has been a massive scaling up in the SHG activities. Based up on the success of SHG movement in India and other part of the world, the Govt. of Orissa have launched Mission Shakti.

The concept of self-help has done wonders for women which many development programs could not achieve even after years of investment in human resources and technical inputs. This has dispelled the common myth about what they can do and what they are. Traditionally viewed as the section of the society who have to keep the home fires burning, women in rural areas have started to come out of their exile in oblivion to set a dream for themselves and their children by eking out a respectable means of livelihood and a life of dignity and self-respect.

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