The SHG approach promoted by Sinamandla was introduced into South Africa by Kindernothilfe (KNH), Germany, in 2002, and has been developed by Sinamandla since 2007. The most vulnerable women in primarily rural communities are organised and their capacities built so that they play an important role in the development process of the whole community, which is intended to lead to economic and social empowerment.

There are four main components in the SHG approach:
  1. It focuses on the poorest and most vulnerable households in the community, organising women into strong Self-help Groups (SHGs) so that the women are no longer voiceless and powerless individuals.
  2. It assists women to realise their potential as individuals through initiating a savings and loan scheme whereby the members in the group save from their own limited resources (usually R2.00/person/week) and administer their own fund each week.
  3. It builds capacity and competence through a series of training modules provided by a local non-profit organisation, which supports the processes that increase self-confidence, develop self-reliance, and help SHG members to set their own agenda.
  4. It builds up through clustering at least 6 to 10 SHGs into a Cluster Level Association (CLA) to work on issues requiring collective input.

Photo courtesy of Amangwe Village:
Fundokuhle SHG was formed in Biliya, KZN, in May 2011. The group started a small business of renting out a gas stove and large pots to the community and amongst SHG members.

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I A Self-help Group (SHG) is usually made up of 12 - 20 members from among women identified as the poorest in the community. Each SHG meets weekly, follows simple rules, saves a small amount weekly, has group leadership on a rotational basis, and has a book-writer to keep records.
SHG members are encouraged to take small loans from their group's savings for urgent consumption needs, development needs of their children, and for micro-business. Interest is charged and is added to the group income.
Training and capacity-building is provided to SHG members through community facilitators to improve their self-confidence and self-esteem as well as to enhance their skills. Each SHG sets its own annual action plan, implementing its own activities and projects within the community.
Principles of self-help, mutual help and self-reliance are encouraged. After 6 months, SHGs in a specific geographic area work towards becoming a member of a Cluster Level Association (CLA), where the SHGs are linked together at a second level.

Photo courtesy of Zimele:
Zimele, a Sinamandla partner based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, trained dozens of SHG members in Swayimane on a Learn to Earn - Bake for Profit course. Many now has successful businesses and several are working together to maximize markets in their communitity.

II A Cluster Level Association (CLA) is usually made up of 6 to 10 SHGs from a specific geographic area. Each SHG elects 2-3 representatives to the CLA. A CLA takes up the social, economic and political issues that are beyond the scope of individual SHGs and it works on building the People's Institution towards empowerment.
A CLA has its own objectives and activities that are different to SHGs. Each CLA implements its activities and projects through sub-committees. A CLA is not a superior body to the SHG but rather a representative body that carries out specific tasks on behalf of its SHGs.
III A Federation (or Network of CLAs) involves setting up a super-ordinate association in which each CLA is represented by 2 - 3 members. Forming a Federation is an important step in taking over the administrative tasks from the supporting NGO partner, which now steadily withdraws from the SHG process over a period of two years.
Strong SHGs and CLAs are needed before a Federation can be formed. The main tasks of the Federation are advocacy and lobbying; as well as fundraising and financial management of the wider system. It concentrates on problems and issues which are of importance for the whole geographic area that it covers. As such, it is an umbrella organisation.

Photo courtesy of Thandanani Children's Foundation:
Members of Hlanganani SHG in Copesville, KZN, formed by Thandanani Children's Foundation in 2014 read a copy of UMAZISIZE, the SHG's newspaper, which goes to 10 000 SHG members around KZN every quarter.

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