More on SHG Approach


The SHG approach recognizes that poor women have the potential needed for self-development. It also asserts that if facilitated, they can unleash such potential. This development potential will cause magnificent economic progress and social development if the poor are organized in homogenous women institutions and receive opportunities for capacity building support in the form of training, coaching and advice.

Self Help Group approach aspires to combine the social, economic and personal development aspects of community development through facilitating an enabling environment where individuals and communities can realize their potential and work towards their own development. The change of attitude remains central to the approach. Material well-being, social and personal development as well as empowerment are the final outcomes of this approach.

The SHG approach that is promoted by CoSAP targets poor, marginalized women in Ethiopia to become the drivers of their own empowerment and break out the cycle of poverty. The SHG approach promoted by CoSAP members strives to form three tier People’s Institutions: Self Help Groups (SHGs) ,Cluster level Associations (CLAs) and Federations (Timirets).

Self Help Groups (SHGs)

Self-Help Group (SHG) is an informal association of poor women in a community with a common objective of working together for their economic and social and overall empowerment. SHG consists of 15 to 20 members, generally homogeneous and bound by affinity. Promoting organization usually use the Participatory Rural Appraisal technique to facilitate wealth ranking by the community when forming the SHGs.

The outcomes sought at the SHG level is that members who were initially very poor develop economically and socially; are able to meet their basic needs and their social capital is enhanced. In doing so, they start making important decisions collectively and also in their day-to-day lives. The discussions and decision-making processes strengthen their self-esteem and open new possibilities for involvement in family and neighborhood issues. Changes happening at the SHG level are mainly oriented around issues that impact the life of individual group members, their families and their immediate environment.

A well-functioning SHG should display the following basic qualities:

  • Convene for regular weekly meetings (the meetings are moderated by rotational chairpersonship of the members.)
  • Garner regular weekly savings (agreed amounts are saved regularly)
  • Provide internal lending (members take loans from own capital )
  • Establish Record keeping (keep records of books, financial transaction, minutes, individual records and etc.)
  • Members start to engage in profit oriented /business activities.

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Cluster Level Associations (CLAs)

When SHGs grow in number and begin to realize that there are problems they cannot solve without the help of other groups, they are prepared to form a cluster of self-help groups or a Cluster Level Association (CLA). Generally when there are about 8 to 10 strong SHGs, the groups come together to form a CLA (the second level of the People’s Institution).

To do this, two members are carefully selected by the SHG members from among themselves to represent their group at the CLA. Thus a CLA is made up of 2 representatives from each of the SHGs that are part of the CLA.

The CLA ensures the regular functioning of their SHGs and forms new SHGs as the need arises. It also mobilizes resources for the needs of the community from government and non-government sources. Setting goals and plans as well as activities and projects to address the needs of the community with or without support from external agencies is also among the roles of the CLA. Furthermore, the CLA discusses values and traditional practices in the community with the SHGs and agrees on acceptable social norms which are then followed by all members. It is also important to note that the CLA/SHG members participate in governance, both within the CLA, as elected representatives, and externally, for the purpose of lobbying and advocacy.

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Federations (Timret)

As more and more SHGs are formed, there are more CLAs established. When there are about 8 CLAs, they come together to form a Federation (the third level of the People’s Institution). The rich experience of CLAs in bringing about important changes in the community, whether that is infrastructure development, helping improve social service delivery, and/or reducing structural dependencies motivates them to participate in local governance to ensure that the principles and features of SHG are recognized and find their way in local, regional, and national laws and policies.

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