The poor, especially the coastal fisher community, has found it extremely difficult to locate alternate sources of income and employment opportunities, in the wake of their inadequate financial credibility. But the recent economic perspectives on development have pointed towards the importance of micro finance in the empowerment of the fisherwomen. One method of access to micro finance by the coastal fisher community, fisher women in particular, is the Self Help Group-Bank linkage programme, where banks provide finance to the groups for undertaking economic activities. Thus the programme provides access to associations of fisher women, who, otherwise un-united, would have found themselves not eligible for bank finance. It is expected that the access of such institutional credit would bring in social, personal and financial empowerment of fisher women. The present paper is an evaluation of the findings of the study undertaken to reveal the role of micro finance in coastal fisher women empowerment.
The study utilized both primary and secondary data. Primary data relating to the socioeconomic background and various other aspects relating to empowerment of the fisherwomen were collected through pre-designed questionnaire from 100 fisherwomen representing 20 SHGs from the selected five coastal villages in Uttara Kannada District of Karnataka state. A separate interview schedule was designed, pilot tested and used for data collection. The schedule was used to collect specific information from each member of the fisherwomen SHGs.
The study found that Women status increased after joining of the SHGs 90% in the study area. It is noticed that all the respondents agreed that micro finance brought Respect from Layman or Society and self-confidence and improved their skill. Majority of the respondents expressed that their awareness about environment improved after taking part in micro finance programs actively. Maximum number of respondents accepted that microfinance has brought economic development directly and indirectly happiness and peace in the family. The present study evidences the existence of strong linkages of the SHGs with banks for empowerment of fisherwomen. The very reason of members, as opined by them, in joining the group is the improved chances of accessibility to loans. Thus, there exists strong positive relation between the reasons for joining the group, and the existence of bank linkages. The strong bank linkage that exists, can visibly enhance the opportunity of members to access loans, undertake economic activities, and develop skills. . But, the SHG- driven micro-finance may suffer from serious limitations, reducing its positive impact on empowerment. The lack of transparency in the SHG activities, and inaccessibility to official records may further hinder the effectiveness of the movement.
To conclude, the economic activities of SHGs are quite successful. In this way, SHGs in two villages of Uttara Kannada District were very successful to develop Fisher women empowerment in coastal belt.