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Women empowerment through microfinance is not a new phenomenon, neither for India nor for any other country, especially the ones who are battling against gender gap in economy along-side poverty and other associated socio-economic issues. World-wide, there are several instances of fighting poverty and hunger through micro-financial institutions and community level activities which eventually lead women towards economic empowerment. Inevitably, when microfinance joins hands with government-sponsored poverty-alleviation programmes, better results are expected. Bangladesh has proven to be a successful case study in this regard and India too has not shied away from its own experience of women empowerment through Self-Help Groups (hereafter SHGs) and integrating the SHGs with the national and state-level poverty alleviation programmes and schemes. In this given backdrop, the present article is an attempt to understand the effectiveness of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and SHGs in empowering women in different states of India. The present study undertakes Rajasthan and Kerala as two reference points to explore the reach and effectiveness of the NRLM and various SHGs linked to the government-sponsored programme. As a part of a broader research, the authors would like to limit themselves to the narrated analysis of the issue with a focus on the socio-economic importance of the SHGs and poverty-alleviation programme on the lives of rural Indian women in the recent years.
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