RASS Mahila Pragathi (RMP)


The experience of RASS with micro finance (RASS Mahila Pragathi) is 20 years old by 2009 and is fairly intensive.  The entry of RASS into the field of microfinance could be traced back to its field experiences while implementing ICDS projects in Tirupati. During implementation of this programme, it was found that provision of package of free services drives people towards a culture of dependency and promotes passive participation of the target groups. It lacked the vital inputs for economic development vis-à-vis the promotion of savings and creation of productive assets.  The economic status and development of women and children critically depends on the savings and productive investment of the poor households.  The concept of SHGs as an effective instrument to alleviate the problems of poverty and employment was conceived by RASS.  It has now grown to become a convergent point for economically disadvantaged women who lack access to credit and other community sources.  RASS now operates microfinance activities in all its development projects under the banner of RMP (RASS Mahila Pragathi) through 4200 SHGs in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. And credit assistance is by SIDBI, Axis Bank, RMK, Dhanalakshmi Bank, NABARD, Andhra Bank etc.

The mission of RMP is to build an effective system of sustainable SHGs, accessible to poor women, both in urban and rural areas with a vision to empower women through promotion of entrepreneurial skills and empowering on social issues. 




Significant Mile Stones : Promoting People’s Institution

RASS has promoted Sri Padmavathi Mahilabhyudaya Sangham (SPMS), a legally recognized federation of women’s self-help groups in 1992. The objectives of the federation include creation of a local financial system for the urban poor to address their savings and credit needs in order to improve their economic status.  To achieve this, the basic strategy adopted is to organize women in the informal sector, to mobilize their own resources and manage them for their own benefit through regular saving and credit management.  Fundamental to this is skill training. Specialized financial leadership training is provided by RASS to SPMS, so that the federation as a whole may improve its access to external loan assistance and manage financial activities on its own.


The initiation of SHG linkages brought about many changes in the women’s lives.  The women began to assert themselves, speak boldly, secure access to community infrastructure and improve their own individual personalities.  Today, each member of the SHG earns an additional income of Rs. 1000-1200 per month through dairy activities. This was made possible through the intervention of STEP     (Support to Training and Employment Programme) in 75 villages.  The project is working in collaboration with Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India.




The SHG linkages with social development programmes viz., pre-school education for the children of SHG members; non-formal education for school dropouts and child labour; integrated child development services with special focus on nutrition, health, education and livelihood activities; gender sensitization programmes for the benefit of SHG members; linkages with local Government programmes such as Deepam, Janmabhumi, Neeru-meeru, clean and green, back to school; housing, water and sanitation, have had a great impact on the members and their families.

RASS SHGs have consolidated their activities and look forward to the formation of a women’s financial house, which would cater to the credit requirements of all needy women.  For this purpose, a federal body has already been formed and is being trained through requisite technical inputs and by upgrading the skills of the advisory and loan committee members to conduct their activities independently with RASS being the facilitator.




Support to Training and Employment Programme (STEP)


Gainful employment calls for economically viable activities, which cater to local needs and also lead to empowerment of the rural women who are engaged in agricultural activities or dairying.  Both activities call for financial investment which, if provided on time and with necessary technical training inputs, can lead to improved economic status of rural households. RASS felt that household dairying, if promoted as a viable IGA, could result in gainful employment to rural women.  Therefore, with financial assistance from the Ministry of Women Development and Child Welfare, Government of India, RASS took up the STEP project by adopting an integrated approach.



The geographical area of project coverage has 70 villages in 4 mandals of Chittor district.  Project activities have been divided into 3 phases.  As many as 2400 women, in each of the phases I and II, were covered and in the III phase, 6000 women were covered for promoting dairy as an income generating activity.  In the IV phase of this programme parents were encouraged to send their children to schools for education (focus on child labour) and livelihoods opportunities were provided to poor families in Kuppam, Chittor district, Andhra Pradesh.




Awareness Generation and Organization


In order to awaken the innate leadership qualities in rural women, which for one reason or the other have remained dormant, RASS has been organizing skill training programmes.  The training programmes aim at inculcating the spirit of leadership and cooperation in each stakeholder so that they would become, in turn, a source of inspiration to others.  This program is being implemented in all RASS rural development activities to prepare the women leadership to own the assets for their sustainability.





The SWADHAR Scheme aims to address the specific vulnerability of women in difficult circumstances through a home-based holistic and integrated approach. The target group is women victims of terrorists/extremist violence or those who are without any family support and without any economic means for survival. Neglected, mentally challenged women, women with HIV/AIDS deserted by their family or women who have become widows due to HIV/AIDS and are without any social/economic support are often roped into the current programme. The admitted women can stay for a maximum period of 3 years.   Meanwhile, they will be rehabilitated under ‘Learn & Earn’ scheme and the saving accrued will be used for their rehabilitation outside home. This home will provide admission for a maximum of 50 inmates of the above said category.  The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, is supporting the innovative programme in the country through NGOs since 2004.



Training for Self Employment


RASS has taken up another innovative programme for rural women in the age group of 18-35 years, largely drawn from disadvantaged sections.  The objective of the programme is to train the women in certain vocational skills, which would enable them to earn their livelihood.  RASS has identified some of the demand areas like - bead making, tailoring and embroidery, household appliances repair and maintenance, computer training, mushroom production, dairy and nursery-raising as productive vocations.  This scheme is being assisted by NABARD, CSWB, Ministry of Youth and Sports, GOI.




Support to Gender Issues


RASS, based on its continuous confabulations with women SHG members, assessed the need for a separate centre for women. This centre is to consolidate the gains from micro credit in favour of disadvantaged women and facilitate their empowerment in a holistic manner. The UNFPA and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, came forward to support RASS idea for establishing a nodal centre for women empowerment under Support to Gender Issues (SGI) project. The project was titled as ‘Sustainable Alternatives to Micro Credit and Capacity Building for Women Empowerment’. Two major components have been incorporated in the project in order to provide sustainable and stable inputs to women self help groups.  They are – training in setting and achieving their working goals besides training in keeping group processes alive and sustaining groups through local initiative, self-confidence, self-reliance, co-operation and linkages.

The target population of the project include all types of stakeholders, who are directly or indirectly involved in women empowerment programmes, namely, field level community workers / organizers, NGOs representatives, bankers / financiers, line staff of the Government departments, SHG leaders and members, persons involved with SHGs/ DWCRA groups/MFIs





Resource Center for Indira Mahila Yojana (IMY)


Indira Mahila Yojana is an innovative initiative by government of India with a focus on integrated approach for promoting holistic empowerment of women across the country. RASS took on the role of a resource and training centre to train all stakeholders engaged in the implementation of IMY in Chittor district. Australian High Commission under the Australian Agency for International Development Programme joined its hands in the current venture and supported the programme.   This project aims at conducting training programmes in six phases for stakeholders at different levels.  Essentially, the focus was on building capacities of the SHG promoters such as NGOs, ICDS functionaries, bankers, line department officials, SHG animators and SHG leaders and members through requisite technical inputs and skill building exercises.



Working Women’s Hostel


One of the main difficulties faced by working women is lack of suitable and safe accommodation.  RASS has taken the responsibility to provide hostel facility to such women with the financial assistance of Ministry of Women Child Development, Govt. of India. Tirupati town has four universities - Sri Padmavathi Mahila University, Sri Venkateswara University, Sanskrit Vidyapeet and Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences (SVIMS) in addition to medical and engineering colleges.  More than 30 colleges are located in and around the town. The working women are facing lot of problems in getting proper and secured accommodation. Keeping in view of this need RASS has constructed a hostel to accommodate 80 inmates in the city which has been named as NAARI NILAYAM’.



Click here to see about Support to Training and Employment Program (STEP) - Report