Tamilnadu Women

Tamilnadu Corporation for Development of Women




Ranjani.K.Murthy, IFAD Consultant


Bernard J.P And Rupa Bernard, Independent Consultants

Karunakaran, Dhanraj, Mutharasan, Purnakumar, Selvakumar & Srikala, APO-Credit/Schemes

Paramasivam, Rajendran, Rosalind, and Mangaiyarkarasi, APO-Training

Gnanasekaran, Venkatesh, Murugan, Loganathan, Jayaram, Nagaratna and Parimala (NGO partners)

November, 1999



The Principal Consultant and other co-authors authors would specially like to acknowledge the support and encouragement received from Dr Anuradha Khati Rajivan, Managing Director, and Mr Rajaraman, Executive Director, TNWDP throughout the exercise. Their comments on the draft report were also very helpful. They would also like to thank the Project Management Unit team members and Project Implementation Unit staff for their support. Last, but not the least, they are extremely grateful to the women who set aside some time for our learning though they were very busy eking out a livelihood.






















Block Level Coordination Committee

Common Property Resources

Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women

District Rural Development Agency

Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas


International Fund for Agricultural Development

Integrated Rural Development Programme

Mahalir Thittam

Non-Governmental Organisations

National Micro-Finance Programme

Project Implementation Unit

Project Level Coordination Committee

Project Management Unit

Participatory Rural Appraisal

Scheduled Castes

Swarnajayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojana

Self Help Group

Scheduled Tribes

Tamil Nadu Women’s Development Project


In the context of the Completion Evaluation of the IFAD component of the Tamil Nadu Women’s Development Project (TNWDP), a one month Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) was commissioned by the IFAD in September, 1999. The overall objectives of the PRA were to collect primary data from the beneficiaries and other project partners on their first hand perceptions of project related activities, impact and sustainability. The results and analysis of the PRA exercise were to be used as an input for the evaluation exercise. This report provides a brief overview of the TNWDP (section 2.0), and then elaborates on the methodology, findings, and possible implications of the PRA exercise (in section 3.0, section 4.0 and section 5.0 respectively).

Possible implications of the PRA exercise are explored at three levels:

  • implications for the TNWDP which is now continuing under the "Mahalir Thittam" of the state government,
  • implications for the national level micro finance programme being proposed by IFAD and the Swarnajayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) initiated recently by the Department of Rural Development, Indian government.
  • implications for the ongoing polarised debate on (women-specific) micro-credit, poverty reduction and women’s empowerment. One group sees micro-credit as "the" answer to the persistent feminisation of poverty and gender-inequalities, while the other group opines that micro-credit programmes targeted at women add to their work burden and convert women into channels of credit for men.


The TNWDP is an ongoing project of the Tamil Nadu Corporation for the Development of Women (DeW) which was established in 1983 with the aim of fostering empowerment of women in the state. In 1989, the DeW entered into a collaboration with the IFAD, and thus the Women’s Development Project was born. Between the 1st of January 1990 and 31st of December, 1998 the IFAD supported the project. The mutually agreed objective of the project was to promote self-reliance and economic self-sufficiency among poor rural women and improve their status in the family and the community. Particular focus was to be paid on the poorest rural women, and amongst them on women headed households.

The project was expected to achieve its objectives through a combination of several activities including:

  • group formation and development,
  • informal credit and saving mobilisation,
  • training
  • institutional credit,
  • income generation
  • monitoring and evaluation.

The project began in three districts of Tamil Nadu and expanded to eight districts subsequently. In light of the positive impact of the project, in the year 1997 the Tamil Nadu government agreed to expand the project to the entire state, and thus the state level programme Mahalir Thittam was initiated. As on October, 1999 the TNWDP/Mahalir Thittam is in operation in 21 districts of the state.

Given that the project is considered a success by all the concerned stakeholders, the main aims of the Completion Evaluation scheduled in October, 1999 are:

  • to identify and analyse the specific factors contributing to its success,
  • generate recommendations and lessons for the National Micro-Finance Project, and
  • generate recommendations for the design and implementation of other similar projects in India and elsewhere


The preparatory measures and the actual implementation of the PRA exercise are briefly described below.


STEP 1: Identifying Scope of the exercise, PRA Methods, and Geographical Area

Discussions were first held with the Project Management Unit team (in particular the Managing Director and the Executive Director) to elicit their points of view on the objectives, scope, and methodology of the PRA exercise. It was decided to first review existing reports, data, and evaluation studies (including the preliminary findings of the Terminal Evaluation Study) to identify gaps in information as relevant to the PRA exercise. It was also decided to review existing PRA methods to decide which methods would be the most useful for the purpose of this exercise. This review suggested the following:

Scope: The information base was strong on the quantitative aspects of the project, and therefore the PRA exercise should focus more on the qualitative aspects like


  • - impact on women’s poverty & vulnerability,
  • - women’s (and men’s) access to and control over resources and benefits as related to the project activities,
  • - women’s (and men’s) mobility and decision making,
  • - broader change in gender relations in the community due to the project and
  • - sustainability of group functioning and impact after termination of the IFAD project.

Further, the review suggested that sharper analytical data was required on issues of targeting (who is included and excluded) and access to internal loans and bank loans across different economic groups.

  • PRA Methods: The following methods would be the most useful for the PRA exercise:

    Social mapping of the village and wealth ranking of the households/members for analysing the effectiveness of targeting at the village level. A study of human development indicators was proposed for analysing the effectiveness of targeting at the state and district levels,

    • A participatory ranking of the economic status of SHG members’ households and that of a control group before and after formation of group and discussion of reasons for change for discerning impact of the project on household level poverty,
    • A participatory gender analysis of access and control over income and benefits out of increased income (food, health care and education) to discern gender differentiated impact on well being at the household level,
    • A participatory gender analysis of division of labour, work load, mobility and intra-household decision making before and after the project to see whether the project has reduced or increased the work load of women and men, changed the social norms governing appropriate role of women and men, expanded women’s mobility and enhanced women’s role in household decision making,
    • Focus group discussions with SHG members (backed by review of records) and Federation members on group formation, decision making processes, group dynamics, savings and lending operations, and issues of financial and social sustainability,
    • Informal discussions with eligible non-members, elderly women and men, village leaders (statutory and non-statutory), male and female children, bankers and NGO staff on the activities of the TNWDP project and its impact.
    • Informal discussions with individual SHG members and other members of their household to cross check or triangulate the information gathered through the other methods.
  • Geographical area: The following three districts were fairly representative of the eight districts under the IFAD project and the history of the project: Dharmapuri district (backward district, started in the early years of the project), Ramnathapuram district (backward district, started in the middle of the project period), and Madurai district (relatively better off district, started in the middle of the project period). It was hence decided to concentrate on these districts for the PRA exercise.

STEP 2: Identification Of SHGs and Member Households:

Two-three groups were selected for in-depth study in each of the three districts mentioned above. These represent different:

  • periods of group formation: 1989 to 1998. The purpose was to see whether the project level activities, impact and sustainability varied with the age of the groups.
  • levels of group functioning as per the TNWDP’s SHG grading system. In each of the three districts atleast one Grade A or B group (well functioning) and Grade C or D group was chosen. The purpose was to see whether issues of targeting, group functioning, project impact and project sustainability varied with the grading system adopted by the project.
  • strategies adopted by different NGOs: Care was taken to ensure that the 2-3 villages chosen in each district were formed by different NGOs to see whether issues of targeting, group functioning, impact and sustainability varied with the NGO strategy.
  • At-least 1-2 different blocks in the district: Care was taken to select the 2-3 villages in each district from different blocks so as to discern whether the socio-economic and environmental characteristics of the project area has a bearing on profile of members, the functioning of the group, project impact and project sustainability.
  • different degrees of attention to saturation: To the extent possible, care was taken to choose one village in each district with only one SHG, and one village with two or more SHGs to examine whether issues of targeting, impact, and sustainability vary with different kinds of saturation policy adopted.

STEP 3: Setting up and training the PRA Team and Finalisation of PRA Schedules

Given that each PRA exercise in a village was likely to take 12-16 person days to complete (depending on the village size) it was decided to recruit two local Consultants for helping the IFAD consultant supervise the exercise, and induct six motivated Assistant Project Officers of the TNWDP and three NGO staff into the PRA team.

A three-day training programme was organised for the facilitators between the 8th and the 10th of September, at Madurai on Gender and PRA Methods, which wasalso attended by the Executive Director of the TNWDP. This strategy was preferred to choosing an external PRA team so as to build institutional capacity on Gender and PRA issues within the TNWDP. One day of the training programme was spent in the classroom on strengthening conceptual clarity on gender issues, as well as an orientation to principles and methods of PRA (to be used in this exercise). The second day and the forenoon of the third day was spent by the participants in actually conducting the PRA exercises with the members of two SHGs in a village (Palaniyarnagar) of Madurai East. The afternoon was spent on fine-tuning the methods.

Subsequent to the training programme, a one-day meeting was held at the PMU office at Chennai, to finalise the PRA schedules/reporting systems in which the Managing Director and Executive Director, local consultants, and some of the other PRA team members participated. Three schedules were arrived at in this meeting, titled: i) Social Mapping and Wealth Ranking: Findings on Targeting and Impact on Housheold Poverty, ii) Gender Differentiated Impact at the Household level: Gender Analysis of Work, Access to and Control over Resources, Mobility, Decision making, Seasonality and Credit/Savings Preference, iii) Group functioning, group operations and sustainability. These three schedules are attached as Annexures 1,2 and 3 respectively.


The actual coverage of villages, SHGs, groups, member households, NGOs and administrative Blocks are summarized in a chart below.

Parameters Dharmapuri


Madurai district Ramnad District Total
No of villages


No of villages with more than one group









No of Blocks 2




Madurai East






No of SHGs covered
  • Targeting
  • Group functioning
  • Savings & lending
  • Sustainability
  • Intra-HH
  • Impact
    • On all aspects
    7 (5 Ifad, 2 mt)

    2 (2 Ifad)

    2 (2 Ifad)

    2 (2 Ifad)

    2 (2 Ifad)

    2 (2 Ifad)

    12 (5 Ifad, 7mt)

    3 (2 Ifad, 1 Mt)

    3 (2 Ifad, 1 Mt)

    3 (2 Ifad, 1 Mt)

    3 (3 Ifad)

    2 (2 IFAD)

    5 (4 Ifad, 1 Mt)

    3(2 Ifad, 1 Mt)

    3 (2 Ifad, 1 Mt)

    3 (2 Ifad, 1 Mt)

    2 (2 Ifad)

    2 (2 IFAD)

    24 (14 Ifad,10 Mt)

    8 (6 IFAD, 2 Mt)

    8 (6IFAD, 2 Mt)

    8 (6IFAD, 2 Mt)

    7 (7 IFAD)

    6. (6 IFAD)

    Grade of SHG

    (all aspects covered)

    1 Grade A

    1 Grade C

    1 Grade A

    1 Grade C

    1 Grade A

    1 Grade C

    3 Grade A

    3 Grade C

    NGOs working

    In the villages

    (grade in bracket)


    MYRADA (A)

    IVDP (A)


    Shepherd (C)

    Pace Trust (B* )

    ICCW ( A)


    Meyer’s Trust

    (black listed)

    SMSS (A)

    TRRM (A)

    No. of families covered 12 10 12 34

    -20 male headed

    - 8 widows

    - 6 women members whose husbands were sick