From the ECWG Team
Participation in informal savings groups and women’s empowerment in agriculture in Nigeria
While impact evaluations of formalized savings groups show that they can improve financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment in a variety of settings in sub-Saharan Africa, only very few studies examine the impact of informal savings groups. This paper examines the association between informal savings group membership, individual-level asset ownership, and household-level decision-making power for men and women using panel data from a nationally representative sample from Nigeria. We find a small but statistically significant association between informal savings group participation, and women’s decision-making power and asset ownership in the household, but high drop-out rates from informal savings groups, especially for women. We hypothesize that informal savings group participation in Nigeria may not provide women with sufficient finance to accumulate resources required for investments in larger assets. We discuss implications for the design of formalized savings groups, with a focus on in-group trust, group governance, and access to capital.
Taking stock of the evidence on women’s groups in Nigeria
In Nigeria, different types of groups exist, including women’s groups, and groups focused on agriculture, savings, credit, religious and social pursuits, and business associations, all of which are avenues through which to deliver interventions that aim to improve women’s economic and social empowerment (Desai et al., 2019). However, only limited evidence is available on the impact of informal savings groups in sub-Saharan Africa despite their high prevalence, especially in rural areas.
In this brief, based on a review of available evidence, we find that: 1) Women’s aggregate informal savings group participation increased throughout Nigeria between 2010 and 2018, but there is evidence of large drop-out rates, possibly because of low within-group trust. 2) One potential way to reduce drop-out rates is to transform informal savings groups into formal savings groups. 3) Evidence from a randomized controlled trial and phone-based surveys during COVID-19 indicates that implementers in Nigeria can harness Village Savings and Loan Associations and group mentorship programs to improve women’s resilience and food security during and after large nationwide shocks, such as COVID-19.
Women's Groups in South Asia: Landscape, Impact, and the Future
Co-organized by the South Asia Gender Innovation Lab (SAR GIL) and the Evidence Consortium on Women's Groups (ECWG), the webinar presented findings from three streams of work supported by the South Asia Gender Innovation Lab.
- A typology of women’s groups in South Asia with a particular focus on the design frameworks, implementation modalities, and composition of groups. Presented by Sapna Desai and Thomas de Hoop.
- Findings from a recent systematic review that assesses the impacts of SHG interventions on women’s economic participation and empowerment outcomes in South Asia. Presented by Amna Javed.
- Implementation and design experiences from the Strengthening Afghan Women’s Economic Empowerment Project (SWEEP) in Afghanistan. Presented by Sarah Haddock.
©Gates Archive/Saumya Khandelwal
From our partners
COVID-19 & Women: Saving for Resilience
CARE’s Women Respond initiative was launched in April 2020. The initiative is a listening exercise, learning from women to better understand the unique situation COVID-19 presents, to refine programming and advocacy, and elevate women’s voices and concerns to meet their challenges. Under the umbrella of Women Respond, CARE implemented the Women (in VSLAs) Respond initiative, assessing how members of Village Savings & Loan Associations (VSLAs), particularly women and girls, are affected by and responding to the pandemic. Women (in VSLAs) Respond sought to assess how VSLA members as individuals and VSLAs as groups are affected by the pandemic and how they responded and adapted to cope with the crisis. Four rounds of quantitative and two rounds of qualitative data collection were conducted in the six countries to listen to VSLA members’ experiences of COVID-19. This report is the final analysis and examines the findings from the six countries’. The report analyzes and shares the individual impact, needs and responses VSLA members reported throughout the data collection.
What Do We Know About Interventions to Increase Women’s Economic Participation and Empowerment in South Asia?
The World Bank’s South Asia Region Gender Innovation Lab is conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions with direct or indirect effects on measures of women’s economic empowerment. The review focuses on changes in labor force participation, employment, income, and empowerment outcomes. The goal is to document what has worked and has not for women in the region (covering all countries; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), the types of interventions implemented, and identifiable gaps in knowledge and action. The review organizes interventions in six broad categories: skills, assets, credit, labor market, entrepreneurship, and empowerment.
Read the full systematic review here
How Well Do Economic Empowerment Efforts Prevent Intimate Partner Violence in South Asia?
The World Bank’s South Asia Region Gender Innovation Lab has conducted an evidence review of findings from women’s economic empowerment (WEE) interventions with direct measures of intimate partner violence (IPV). The aim of the review was to identify WEE programs that measure IPV and have been evaluated in the South Asia Region (SAR) and to synthesize this evidence in relation to global evidence. A subsidiary aim is to focus on implementation—what strategies improve feasibility, sustainability, and minimize unintended harm from WEE interventions in SAR?
Investing in Women Micro-Entrepreneurs in Nigeria: Evaluation of Program Variations on Women’s Business Profitability and Sustainability
Women for Women International has been implementing the Stronger Women Stronger Nations program in Nigeria since 2000. In collaboration with Tufts University, Women for Women International conducted a 39-month randomized control trial in Bauchi and Plateau states, Nigeria from 2018 to 2021. This study measured the impacts of village savings and loans associations (VSLAs) and post-program group mentorship on program participants’ economic and business outcomes.
For more insights into the final results, please read the two-page results summary, and evidence brief
Watch the webinar presentation of findings, reflections, and recommendations
©Gates Archive/Nelson Owoicho
Recent research on women’s groups
Tackling psychosocial and capital constraints to alleviate poverty
Recent evidence has shown that multi-faceted ‘graduation’ programmes can succeed in generating sustained changes. Here we show that a multi-faceted intervention can open pathways out of extreme poverty by relaxing capital and psychosocial constraints. We conducted a four-arm randomized evaluation among extremely poor female beneficiaries already enrolled in a national cash transfer government programme in Niger. The three treatment arms included group savings promotion, coaching and entrepreneurship training, and then added either a lump-sum cash grant, psychosocial interventions, or both the cash grant and psychosocial interventions. All three arms generated positive effects on economic outcomes and psychosocial well-being, but there were notable differences in the pathways and the timing of effects. Overall, the arms with psychosocial interventions were the most cost-effective, highlighting the value of including well-designed psychosocial components in government-led multi-faceted interventions for the extreme poor.
Promoting Financial and Inclusive Growth, supported by NABARD
This is a collection of papers presented at an e-conference that include chapters on various initiatives taken by NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) in promoting financial inclusion among the poor in India. It includes multiple papers on financial inclusion of women, its consequent effects on their empowerment and the role of Self Help groups.
Self Help Groups for Women’s Development
Women empowerment is one of the main agenda in the developmental targets of most of the nations that could be achieved with the collective efforts of women who are marginalized. In this regard, Self Help Groups (SHGs) have emerged as the potent strategy to empower women through participatory approach. The present study has been conducted to examine the impact of membership of SHGs on different aspects of women empowerment using primary data collected by structured questionnaire. To assess the empowerment of women, questions were asked on different aspects of their empowerment before and after getting membership of SHG. The study found that membership of SHG has resulted into achievement of social, economic personal and political empowerment of the women members.
News and commentary on Women’s Groups
Will informal savings groups survive inflation?
This blog by Mondato references ECWG work and quotes Dr. de Hoop, one of our co-PIs. The crucial importance of savings groups to protect vulnerable and underserved groups in times of economic shock was evident throughout the pandemic: research showed a correlation between savings groups membership and food security at the household level. However, while individual resilience increased through membership of savings groups, the groups’ resilience suffered over the long term as they dipped into their pool of funds to help members cope.
Collaboration between MoRD and Amazon for online marketing of SHG products
Amazon & MoRD will jointly enable the Commercial and social development of women-led rural enterprises across identified States/UTs. Amazon will provide Training & Onboarding support to MoRD appointed sellers to list products from Self Help Groups associated with MoRD on Amazon.in.
Odisha Govt ropes in UNFPA to strengthen SHG capacity
Odisha government has decided to launch a new initiative in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund, India (UNFPA) to accelerate progress and bridge financial, digital and social gaps by strengthening Mission Shakti SHG network in the State.
Offering renewed hope to cocoa farmers through access to credit
Integrated Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) is a reliable and popular choice among cocoa farmers in Adansi Anwona, and adjoining areas at Adansi North in the Ashanti Region, Ghana. This is mainly because many cocoa farmers in the region are experiencing reduced harvests because of the impact of climate change like erratic rainfall and long dry seasons.