Saxena, Swati (1); Tiwari, Meera (2) (2017). 'The role of women's collectives in curbing alcoholism in rural India' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


This paper explores whether women's collectives or Self Help Groups (SHGs) in rural Uttar Pradesh in India have any role in reducing alcoholism in the villages. Excessive alcohol consumption is widely prevalent amongst the male members in the villages. While alcohol consumption itself has existed in rural India for centuries, the recent consumption patter and the resulting social problems have been an increasing cause for concern (Dutta et al. 2014). The consumption is habitually excessive with serious adverse impacts. The locally brewed alcohol is often adulterated and can lead to alcohol poisoning and death. Intoxicated men routinely abuse their wives and children resulting in very high levels of domestic violence. Alcohol addiction also drains the savings of the family with health, education and nutrition of children being the first casualties. The government as a result runs several de-addiction programmes (GoI, 2015), however either due to poor implementation or lack of behaviour change communication, these are seldom successful. Thus we study how community led and women collectives can lead a movement against alcohol addiction and the resulting social and economic problems in the village.

            Our inquiry is situated within the discourse of collective capabilities (and empowerment). The collectives in this study are the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana (RGMVP) SHGs in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. The RGMVP is a non-profit organisation working for poverty alleviation in Uttar Pradesh. It adapted the model of credit linked Self Help Groups of women as a platforms for a wide range of development interventions. The rationale was to tap into the collective strength of the group and the group as safe space for discussion of sensitive issues likes alcoholism or domestic violence that affect women.

            The study is empirical in nature. It draws attention to the collective strengths of the SHGs in dealing with alcoholism in rural India through the case study of RGMVP in rural Uttar Pradesh. It examines the collective capabilities of the SHG women to investigate its role in controlling alcoholism in the villages. The paper is based on primary surveys of 250 SHG women. The investigation is designed to capture their understanding of the problem, their experiences in dealing and coping with the consequences of alcoholism and whether being part of the SHG has had any influence on these. Using a mixed methodology approach it explores the alcohol consumption trends in these communities, the changes in direct and indirect consequences and proxies that indicate its prevalence. Given the highly sensitive nature of the problem, the role of proxies paramount to capture the accurate current context. Further, a review of the public policy context for reducing alcoholism is undertaken. The study is timely and central to the Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015 that pledged focused attention to Gender Inequality and Health through Goals 1 'No poverty': Gender inequality plays a large role in the perpetuation of poverty and its risks; Goal 3 'Good Health and Well-being': Ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all at all ages and Goal 5 'Gender Equality': Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

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