The SHG Approach is aright based approach which views poverty as the denial of right and poverty alleviation as a process of reclaiming one’s rights. Given the multi-dimensional nature of poverty, however, the SHG Approach puts equal emphasis on the goals of economic, social and political empowerment.
In order to achieve these goals, it offers a frame work and guidance for establishing a people’s institution which provide an environment of trust and cooperation in which people come to realize they are able to help themselves to achieve the economic, social and political goals that they themselves define.
Saint John of God started implementing the Self Help Group Approach in 2010 with support from Kindernolthilfe of Germany. Through this approach Saint John of God Hospitaller Services Malawi has managed to contribute towards the reduction in household poverty in Mzuzu and surrounding communities. Typically a self-help group would:

  • Comprise of 15 to 20 women, generally homogenous and made up of members that are bound by affinity.
  • The group uses savings and credit, social involvement and group cohesion as instruments of empowerment.
  • Principles of self-help, mutual help and self-reliance are encouraged in Self Help Group Approach.

Benefits of Self Help Group Approach

  • Improvement in the quality of life in families and households which has greatly benefited children
  • Holistic empowerment of poor women to equally see themselves as capable and also engage in community development through advocacy and collaboration with other stakeholders
  • Improvement in child protection in the communities
  • Reduced incidents of gender based violence as women are more productive and contribute to household income.


Saint John of God has seen women who were living on the margins of poverty move out of their situation and tremendously change their lives and that of their families. The women have grown their businesses and also some have constructed good houses for themselves and their families and also others are renting out, in the process diversifying income sources.

Federation formation

On the 8th of November 2018, Saint John of God Hospitaller Services facilitated the formation of a third federation in Malawi. This is a third tier in the SHG Approach. The second being the Cluster Level Associations which have since 2011 greatly dedicated themselves to change the lives of the communities and also work towards the formation of this federation.