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Evidnce Consortium on Women's Groups


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Women’s Groups in a time of global pandemic

In India, women’s self-help groups combat the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic
Self-help groups in India are playing a vital role in making masks

Grassroots women's organizations are mobilizing to respond to COVID-19
Lessons from African Feminists Mobilizing Against COVID-19

Recent evidence on women’s groups

Promoting women’s and children’s health through community groups in low-income and middle-income countries: a mixed-methods systematic review of mechanisms, enablers and barriers 

This study is a mixed-methods systematic review of mechanisms, enablers and barriers to the promotion of women’s and children’s health in community mobilization interventions. The authors uncover multiple proposed mechanisms, enablers and barriers to health promotion through community groups, but conclude that much work remains to provide a robust evidence base for proposed mechanisms, enablers and barriers.

Can Women's Self-Help Groups Contribute to Sustainable Development ? Evidence of Capability Changes from Northern India

This paper investigates a women's self-help group program with more than 1.5 million participants in one of the poorest rural areas of Northern India. The paper considers whether there is any evidence that program membership is associated with quality of life improvement. The authors report evidence of differences in some dimensions as well as significant benefits to those from the most disadvantaged groups—scheduled castes and tribes.

Helping Oneself, Helping Each Other: Correlates of Women's Participation in Self-Help Groups in India

This paper analyses the correlates of women’s membership in self-help groups (SHGs) using two datasets from India. Older women and those in villages without banks are more likely to join SHGs. Different findings across the two datasets highlight the drawbacks of using program evaluation data for guiding geographic targeting and placement of SHG programs. The results emphasize the need to understand regional variations in membership and the unique characteristics of women, households, and villages when designing and targeting SHG platforms, particularly when using them for service delivery.

Effect of sharing health messages on antenatal care behavior among women involved in microfinance-based self-help groups in Bihar India

Microfinance-based self-help groups (SHGs), involving rural women, are being utilized to improve maternal and child health practice and reduce mortality. SHG members receive information on key maternal and child health practices as well as encouragement for their practice. This study measures the association of health messaging to SHG members with their antenatal care (ANC) behaviors. The study shows that sharing health messages in microfinance-based SHGs is associated with significant increase in ANC practice. While the results suggest the potential of microfinance-based SHGs for improved maternal health services, the approach's sustainability needs to be further examined.

Empowering self-help groups for caregivers of children with disabilities in Kilifi, Kenya: Impacts and their underlying mechanisms

Bringing up a child with disabilities in a low-income setting is challenged by inadequate resources, limited psycho-social support and poverty. To address and investigate these issues, action was taken to set up twenty self-help groups focusing on caregiver empowerment. Evaluation employed mixed methods using questionnaires (n = 75) and semi-structured interviews (n = 36) pre- and post-intervention. Post-intervention, caregiver agency was defined by togetherness, capacity-building, acceptance and well-being. Significant impacts associated with caregiver perceptions included increased social support, reduced severity of child’s disability and decreased effects of extrinsic factors affecting the caregiver’s role. Mechanisms of ‘handling goods and money’ and ‘social ties and support’ appeared to underpin the outcomes. 

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 ( or Sapna Desai at the Population Council ( 

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. 

Featured Work by the ECWG

Portfolio evaluation of Gates Foundation investments in women’s groups

The ECWG conducted a portfolio evaluation, reviewing 46 Foundation investments involving women’s groups, made between 2005 and 2017. This research brief provides an overview of the ECWG’s evaluation findings, identifies evidence gaps, and provides recommendations to improve future investments and evaluations of women’s groups.

Preliminary cost-effectiveness analysis of the JEEVIKA program in Bihar

The ECWG conducted a preliminary analysis of the costs and Return on Investment (ROI) of Jeevika – the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (BRLP) in India. This research note presents findings on the costs of various program components over time and scale as well as the program’s ROI based on publicly available program and audit reports and an impact evaluation conducted by Hoffmann et al. (2018)

Measurement guidance on women’s empowerment and economic outcomes

The ECWG developed a guide for measuring women’s empowerment and economic outcomes to inform the community of researchers that focus on women’s groups. The guide provides a collection of field-tested survey instruments and questions for measuring women’s empowerment and economic outcomes in quantitative impact evaluations and mixed-methods studies of women’s groups, along with recommendations on how to use these tools.

Guidance for estimating cost-effectiveness of women’s groups

The ECWG developed guidelines to support researchers, stakeholders, and program implementers to collect and analyze data on program costs and estimate program cost-effectiveness, with the goal of supporting better practices in cost data collection and the use of these data to inform future investments in women’s groups. The ECWG has also designed two versions of cost data collection tools –  a basic version  and  an advanced version . These tools can be used to collect cost data of women’s group programs by defining program-specific assumptions (also included in the tools). The cost data collection tools are accompanied by  one cost summary and analysis sheet , which can be used to generate cost-effectiveness estimates based on total costs and estimated impact.

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