What happens, when people cannot come together in person because of lockdowns to prevent transmission of COVID-19? What happens to the irrigation systems in Nepal and India that need collective labor to repair them? What happens to the women who rely on weekly savings group meetings to build their financial and social capital?
Digital savings groups (DSGs) are defined as “technologies and systems that digitize savings group records, procedures or transactions.” What is most exciting about the growing range of DSG solutions is their potential for scale. At least two billion adults worldwide are financially excluded. In the last few decades, savings groups promoted by development organizations have reached about two percent of this population, with little apparent incentive for market actors to train new groups or work with existing groups. DSGs may create those incentives, reduce the cost of training, and dramatically increase the potential for outreach.
Women’s groups are a popular approach to promoting women’s and girls’ empowerment. Yet, whether and how creating and supporting women’s groups and delivering interventions through them offers unique benefits compared to individual based interventions remains an open question. We review the experimental and quasi experimental literature on women’s livelihoods and financial groups, health groups, and adolescent groups, and analyze the causal mechanisms through which these models improved outcomes for women and girls in low and middle-income countries. We distinguish between mechanisms that leveraged groups as a platform for intervention delivery and mechanisms that leveraged interactions among group members. We conclude that the primary benefit of group models is to offer a platform to reach many women at once with resources, information, and training. Nonetheless, some evidence suggests that group models can achieve positive impacts by fostering or harnessing interactions among group members, which would be harder or impossible to achieve through individual-based interventions. We offer some suggestions regarding the implications of these findings for programming and future research.
In India, the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has created unprecedented challenges for rural households, women and the most marginalised groups, and women’s empowerment collectives (WECs). Women’s collectives have been negatively impacted, remaining unable to conduct regular physical meetings of members thereby weakening opportunities for collective solidarity. Collectives are facing depletion of savings and liquidity crunch, severely affecting their ability to repay loans. While members of women’s collectives have been involved in crisis response activities such as making masks, sanitisers and personal protective equipment (PPE), running community kitchens and delivering rations to the most vulnerable at the last mile, field insights indicate these opportunities are enjoyed by limited numbers of women, who may receive delayed payment and need to commit own funds for these activities and for their own protective gear. The risk of contracting the virus also remains a potent threat for women community cadres and frontline workers.
Globally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person events are discouraged and are currently on hold. During this period, we will share information on online events.
The SG e-Workshop is a 14 week online facilitated learning community created to develop, recognise and capture the expertise of field-based staff involved in the implementation of Savings for Transformation (S4T) programming.
The training course is for the use of SAVIX MIS: the most commonly used system for tracking Savings groups projects.
Invitation to collaborate:
The Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups (ECWG) aims to strengthen, expand, and disseminate the global evidence base on women’s groups. This newsletter is a monthly feature that reaches out to researchers, donor organisations, implementers and evaluators. Each of these play a critical role in the formation, capacity building, maintenance and research on Women's Groups globally.
We invite you to work with us and share your blogs on our website by reaching out to Thomas de Hoop at the American Institutes for Research (email@example.com) or Sapna Desai at the Population Council (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Currently, we are looking to share voices of women’s groups as they face unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. Hearing about these experiences is critical to contribute to an analysis of the gendered impacts of the crisis. In a recent commentary, Wenham et al (2020) highlight the importance of “recognizing the extent to which disease outbreaks affect men and women differently” and how it is a “fundamental step to understanding the primary and secondary effects of a health emergency on different individuals and communities, and for creating effective, equitable policies and interventions.”
Please get in touch with the ECWG if you would like to share experiences in a blog, such as :
How groups have worked to support members and communities meet basic needs during lockdowns and restrictions
How groups remain functional without in-person meetings
Longer term plans to support groups and communities
Please also contact the ECWG if you have additional suggestions or would like to contribute your experiences responding to COVID-19 in a different way.