From the ECWG Team
We present the findings of a scoping review to examine the evidence base and evidence gaps on women's groups in Uganda. We appraised the evidence base on the impact, cost-effectiveness, and implementation of women's groups in Uganda to understand both the evidence that exists and the evidence gaps that remain. In addition, we present analysis of the pathways through which women's groups can achieve their various objectives.
The key takeaways from the evidence are:
- Most studied women's groups had financial and economic activities such as savings, credit, and livelihoods, as their organizing purpose, with a small minority of women's groups focusing on maternal health and HIV/AIDS as their organizing purpose.
- Existing financial groups often include the 'able poor' but may exclude the poorest of the poor but combining cash transfers with savings groups could potentially enable their inclusion
- Microfinance and livelihoods groups show positive impacts on economic outcomes with promising evidence for positive effects on women's decision-making power and other empowerment measures.
- Cost-effectiveness analyses show evidence that BRAC's adolescent girl groups' positive impacts on labor force participation and expenditures alone may well outweigh the program's costs, and a positive return on investment of combining savings groups with cash transfers for the poorest of the poor in Northern Uganda.
The key gaps in evidence are:
- Most studies had limited details on the activities implemented by women's groups, and the time women's groups spent on those activities,
- There is only limited evidence on how gender norms influence the ability of mixed-gender savings groups to operate effectively.
- There are significant evidence gaps on the additive impacts of the layering of livelihoods and health interventions.
- There are major evidence gaps on the cost-effectiveness of Village Savings and Loan Associations.
Read the review here
During this year's World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia in collaboration with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Secretariat organized a one day hybrid consultation on August 1,2022 that brought together health professionals in public and private sector such as Ministry of Health, South Asia Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pediatrics and Women’s movements associations to ideate and arrive at key actions which can be implemented by their networks to Narrow the Opportunity Gaps for Protecting, Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding in South Asia. Our co-PI, Dr. Sapna Desai was a panelist at this UNICEF event.
Read related work here
©Gates Archive/Saumya Khandelwal
From our partners
The National Rural Livelihood Mission aims to increase income and improve wellbeing for rural households. Using survey data from nine states in India, this article, by 3ie, analyses the existence of caste-based differences in self-help groups within the NRLM programme. It finds that members of disadvantaged groups are equally likely to be elected as an office bearer. Further representation of disadvantaged groups in leadership positions increases participation, access to benefits and other related outcomes amongst members from the disadvantaged group.
Read the blog here
©Gates Archive/Nelson Owoicho
Recent research on women's groups
This study by the Karnataka Evaluation Authority was commissioned by the government of Karnataka with the following objectives: 1) Assess the impact of loan given at concessional rate of interest to SHG; 2) To study the type of Economic activity undertaken and its sustainability; 3) To study the cost benefit analysis and viability of economic activity; 4) To study the formation, growth and sustainability of SHGs; 5) Problem faced by SHG members in production and marketing. The study indicates that about 60 – 70% of money taken from SHGs as loan is being used for personal/family purposes. The authors suggest that there should be a proper mechanism to train the members in such a way that the entire loaned amount is utilized on the livelihood creation activity alone. The study suggests that members prefer to join in a group where they already know the members.
Few studies have examined the influence of women's participation in farmer groups on female and male empowerment, which is considered essential to improving nutrition. The study aimed to (1) assess the empowerment of Ghanaian women farmers, one adult male family decision maker, and the household gender equality, and (2) investigate the relationship of empowerment and household gender equality with women's participation in farmer-based organizations (FBO), women's and men's nutritional status, and household food security. A cross-sectional study investigated secondary outcomes using baseline data from a nutrition-sensitive agriculture intervention implemented through FBOs in rural Ghana. Existing FBOs in eight communities were selected based on six criteria (e.g., participation level, readiness to change). Female FBO (n = 166) and non-FBO (n = 164) members together with a male family member (n = 205) provided data on individual and household characteristics; empowerment was measured across 11 indicators with the project-level Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index. Generalized linear mixed models tested the associations between empowerment and household gender equality with FBO membership, nutritional status, and household food security. Women's FBO membership was associated with an increased likelihood of women's empowerment and household gender parity but not men's empowerment. Household food insecurity, but not nutritional status, was positively associated with women's FBO participation and individual empowerment indicators (financial services). Food insecurity was negatively associated with women's empowerment indicator related to attitudes about domestic violence and men's overall empowerment. Understanding the complexity in which FBO participation, empowerment, nutritional status, and food security are linked is critical in designing interventions that promote gender equality and improved nutrition.
This study attempted to investigate the characteristics of rural community savings systems and their impacts on rural livelihood in selected districts of Sierra Leone. The researchers adopted three objectives, (1) identify the personal and socio-demographic characteristics of rural dwellers (savings members and non-savings members) that influence participation in rural community savings systems, and (2) identify the factors, operational conditions and modalities of the savings systems, and (3) assess the impact of the rural community savings systems on the livelihood of rural dwellers in selected districts of Sierra Leone. The study adopted a cross-sectional design. The population consists of savings members and non-savings in Bo, Bombali and Kenema Districts. The population size was 897, of which 810 savings with an equivalent of 810 non-savings, giving a sample size of 1,620 rural dwellers. Participation in the savings program positively impacted various rural community welfare indicators. The recommendations include conducting basic training or in-service training on savings and financial management and guiding characteristics of the operations of the savings system.
As climate change accelerates, the popularity of adaptive social protection over conventional social assistance programmes is on the rise for they are seen to enhance people's resilience and wellbeing outcomes. Despite this upsurge, little is known about the impacts of adaptive programmes on resilience and wellbeing outcomes compared to conventional programmes. The authors analyse the economic functions that social protection programmes offer through empirical studies in two climate-vulnerable zones in Bangladesh. By operationalizing a simplified analytical framework to understand subjective resilience, the qualitative data show the adaptive programme to be more effective in enhancing beneficiaries' perceived resilience to climate risks. Neither programme is found to contribute much significantly in terms of enabling beneficiaries to achieve desired wellbeing outcomes that one might expect to see from social protection. The analysis offers rich insights about the design components of the programmes, affording an on-the-ground understanding of their implications for resilience and wellbeing.
News and commentary on Women's Groups
South African venture capital firm HAVAÍC has announced a $500,000 pre-Series A funding round in FinAccess, a Kenyan software solutions provider that digitises farming co-operatives and community banks, also called Savings & Credit Cooperative Organisations (SACCOs) in the region.
E-commerce marketplace Flipkart signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) to enable market access for Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and Self-Help Groups (SHGs). Through this partnership, Flipkart will provide pan-India market access. It will engage with these communities through virtual and on-ground training and capacity-building initiatives to provide them with an understanding of quality, pricing, and licenses required to be a part of the FPO ecosystem. ICAR-IIMR will extend support with infrastructure and necessary approvals to take this partnership forward.
In Solidarity, a SEWA Cooperative Federation podcast explores themes relevant to women's economic empowerment and challenges that women-owned, women-run enterprises face. Each episode has an interview with an expert and explores themes like gender digital gap, climate change, access to finance, social solidarity economy, etc. SEWA Cooperative Federation has worked for over thirty years to economically empower women in the informal sector through women-owned cooperatives and collective enterprises and has been a critical part of the women's movement and the cooperative movement worldwide.
Kenya's Saccos regulator has recommended voluntary mergers of the institutions to reduce unnecessary competition and improve financial positions. This week, the Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA) said some savings and credit societies have failed to meet their obligations to members because of weak cash flows.