India's most powerful channels for nurturing and supporting women to shift from subsistence to sustainability are self-help groups. For a long time, they have been known as one of the most important tools for empowering women, especially at the grassroot level. So, what exactly are these self-help groups, and how have they served as a tool for women empowerment? Read on to find out.What Are Self-Help Groups?Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are small groups of poor people that come together to help each other. An SHG's members confront similar challenges. They assist one another in resolving their issues. SHGs encourage their members to save tiny amounts of money. The money is held in the bank. In the name of the SHG, this is the common fund. The SHG uses its shared fund to make small loans to its members.Functions Of SHGsThe major functions of an SHG include:Savings and Thrift:o All SHG members regularly save a small amount. While the amount may be small, it is stressed that the savings have to be a regular and continuous habit with all the members.o Savings firstCredit later becomes the motto of every SHG member.o It is enforced that SHG members take a step towards self-dependence when they start small savings. They learn financial discipline through savings and internal lending. (Advantage: This is useful when they use bank loans.) Internal lending:o The savings are used for giving loans to the SHG members.o The group decides the purpose, amount, rate of interest, schedule of repayment etc., are to be decided by the group itself.o Proper accounts are maintained by the SHG. Discussing problems: In every meeting, the SHG should be encouraged to discuss and try to find solutions to the problems faced by the members of the group. Individually, the poor people are weak and lack resources to solve their problems. When the group tries to help its members, it becomes easier for them to face the difficulties and come up with solutions. Taking bank loan: The SHG takes a loan from the bank, which is then loaned out to its members.SHGs And Women EmpowermentSHGs play a critical role in encouraging more women to form SHGs and educating them on the relevance of SHGs in their empowerment. This facilitates women's collective decision-making as well as their confidence and talents.These organisations help to motivate women to take on societal duties, especially those connected to women's development. SHGs are regarded as one of the most important vehicles for implementing a participatory approach to women's economic empowerment.Women Self-Help Group (WSHG)The Government of India's Ministry of Finance (MoF) launched the WSHG scheme to promote and finance women's SHGs. It will be implemented in 150 of the country's most backward and Left Wing Extremist (LWE)-affected districts, with the help of the district's lead bank and chosen NGOs.The Self-Help Group MovementIn India, the Self Help Group (SHG) movement is one of the greatest groups working to alleviate poverty, promote social reform, empower women, and increase financial inclusion. Over the past two decades, NGOs have collaborated with organisations such as NABARD, and are currently working with the flagship programme NRLM, to illustrate the mechanism for reaching out to the last mile through SHGs. They've been successful in getting policymakers' and mainstream financial institutions' attention.However, SHGs and their federations face problems in improving the lives and livelihoods of their members, and increased participation of Self Help Promoting NGOs is critical in this respect.