From the ECWG Team
Savings group membership was associated with smaller increases in food insecurity in Nigeria in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19
Food insecurity worsened significantly following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Data from high-frequency phone surveys implemented as part of the Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Survey on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) – indicate that food insecurity was particularly high in Nigeria. The health and labor impacts of COVID-19, and some policy and other responses to contain its spread, have contributed to supply chain disruptions and likely exacerbated food insecurity. Savings groups may help mitigate some of the negative consequences of COVID-19. This study seeks to answer three main research questions on the association between savings group membership and resilience of Nigerian households after COVID-19: 1) What is the association between savings group membership and changes in savings during the COVID-19 pandemic? 2) What is the association between savings group membership and changes in access to credit during the COVID-19 pandemic? 3) What is the association between savings group membership and changes in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic?
This study finds that over 70 percent of adults in Nigeria were impacted by moderate or severe food insecurity in the immediate aftermath of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020. Households with female savings group members were, on average, 3.7 percentage points less likely to report that they faced any food security challenges than households without female group members after controlling for various baseline and demographic characteristics between April and August 2020. Access to savings and credit likely contributed to the association between savings group membership and food security between April and August 2020.
How the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected VSLAs and Their Members: Qualitative Evidence From Nigeria and Uganda
The COVID-19 pandemic has further entrenched preexisting inequalities, with women bearing the brunt of the social, educational, and economic consequences. CARE launched the Women Respond sub-initiative in October 2020 to better understand the unique challenges COVID-19 presented in order to guide programming and advocacy aiming to improve gender equality. Quantitative descriptive and regression analyses revealed that VSLA members in Nigeria and Uganda both experienced economic challenges caused by COVID-19-induced restrictions, but the consequences were greater in Uganda because of the longer lockdown. Savings and other women’s group types contributed to mitigating some of the negative economic consequences of COVID-19 on individual savings group members. This study presents complementary in-depth qualitative research findings to provide more context and gain deeper insights into the way in which and the reasons why the pandemic and the associated lockdown affected VSLAs and their members. This study indicates that:
- COVID-19 caused strains on businesses and livelihoods, resulting in food insecurity.
- Households in both countries used a variety of strategies to cope with the COVID-19 induced crisis, including selling assets and seeking help from extended family and neighbors.
- While some households continued savings, most households had to suspend savings during the pandemic, access to credit was limited and respondents who borrowed were sometimes left in debt.
- Respondents indicated that COVID-19 increased time spent with family, but spousal conflict, including but not limited to gender-based violence, increased.
- Respondents reported economic benefits of VSLAs that partially continued during the pandemic.
©Gates Archive/Saumya Khandelwal
From our partners
A framework for examining women’s economic empowerment in collective enterprises
Women-owned collective enterprises are seen as vehicles for promoting economic empowerment. To assess how collective enterprise-based interventions can lead to empowerment, it's important to understand the pathways to change. The authors of this paper examine these pathways and provide a framework that can guide decision-makers, practitioners, and researchers on what inputs, outputs and outcomes should be considered for designing, monitoring and evaluating a program similar to 3ie's Swashakt program.
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2022 IPA & GPRL Researcher Gathering
The 2022 Researcher Gathering was co-hosted by Innovations for Poverty Action and the Global Poverty Research Lab at Northwestern University.
Abstracts of papers related to financial inclusion can be found here
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Recent research on women’s groups
An Assessment of Sustainable Small - Scale Farming Business and Village Savings, in Mkushi, Zambia
The study assessed the sustainability of small - scale farming as business financed by savings groups in Mkushi district in Zambia. A mixed method involving quantitative and qualitative research was applied. A total sample size of 109 participants was purposively selected for the study. Data collection was through interviews using semi structured questions. A linear binary logistic regression analysis was run in SPSS to determine the predictors of the sustainability of small-scale farming while the Pearson Product Moment correlation was computed to test whether a significant correlation exist between sustainable small-scale farming as a business and village saving groups. The findings indicated that small scale farming practices before the introduction of Saving Groups did not yield sustainability, while the farming practices after formation of saving groups yielded sustainability. Further, the results revealed that factors including average payback period of the loan were associated with sustainable small-scale farming as a business served by saving groups. Finally, the findings publicised negligible negative or no significant relationship between sustainable small-scale farming as a business and belonging to village savings. The study recommended the need for stakeholders such as Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of finance and private sector (FSD IFAD, RUFEP, ZRDF) to scale up the setting up of village savings group throughout rural Zambia in order to provide loan facilities to small-scale farmers at affordable interest rates in order for them to sustainably produce far beyond subsistence for emerging and commercial purposes.
The effect of COVID-19 on Moringa farmers under the Village Savings and Loans Associations in Northwestern Ghana
This paper explored the current structure and dynamics of the village savings and loans associations operations by women and its socio-economic impact during the peak of Covid-19 on sanitation. The study adopted a mixed method design of qualitative and quantitative approach. Women groups who have operated, managed, and sustained for over the period of five (5) years were selected for the study. In all, 48 women between the ages of 18-60 years participated in the study. The study revealed that absenteeism, irregular share-buying, and nonpayment of loans behaviors are factors that were found to negatively affect the structure, dynamics, and sustainability of village savings and loans in 2021 due to Covid 19. The study also identified inadequate medical care, reduction in household incomes and nutrition gaps as key adverse effects of covid-19 on the women farmers. Some trades like Pito brewing, ‘‘Kosee’,’ Shea butter and food vending businesses are either collapsed or almost folding up due to covid-19. Communities relapsed into open defecation due to collapse of household toilets because of Covid-19 related poverty. The study concludes that rural women had challenges in contributing to the village savings and loans schemes or pay back their loans thereby threatening the solvency of the groups due to the COVID crisis.
The Challenges of Gender Mainstreaming In Community Development Projects In Developing Countries: A Case Study Of Self-Help Groups In Rural India
In many developing countries, women are commonly married young, quickly become mothers, and then burdened by domestic work and financial responsibilities. As a result of these conditions, we now live in a world where women are living in poverty and are subjected to injustices and discrimination. This paper aims to examine the critical roles of women and the importance of their involvement in decision-making processes, including the challenges, failures, and success stories in implementing gender-just development strategies in developing countries, specifically India. Since India has been the world's second-most-populous country, the majority of people live in rural areas and millions face extreme poverty. The country is now in a process of rapid economic development, but it faces complex and enduring internal problems, such as those around the caste system. The gap between rich and poor in India is vast. This research uses a qualitative method with the help of a literature review that supports adequate analysis and discussion of the material in this research. In India, where a patriarchal system is deeply entrenched, women have long been denied the legal right to own land. Over the years, several strategies have been created to empower women. One of them is starting Self-Help Groups (SHGs) which are created by governmental organizations that generally have broad anti-poverty agendas. The goal of SHGs is to bridge the gap between high-caste and low-caste members. But in fact, the group members mainly belong to the backward and most backward castes, and they collectively form a category known as 'marginalized'. Investing in women's economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth. But they also remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination, and exploitation.
The Village Savings and Loans Association pathway – feminist solidarity groups leverage COVID-19 to have their voices heard
This article profiles the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) model as a platform and foundation for women to raise their voices and collectively advocate for change. It examines how women in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria leveraged feminist solidarity through VSLAs to advocate for, support, and establish women’s leadership in crisis. CARE, working hand in hand with rural women in Niger, gave birth to the VSLA model in 1991 to serve as a model for women’s empowerment, public participation, and gender transformation. VSLAs have served as a powerful launch pad for individual and collective feminist advocacy. At a foundational level, members of VSLAs benefit from improved livelihoods and social and financial safety nets in times of distress. From a community perspective, VSLAs ignite feminist solidarity which has sparked collective action such as the building of schools, holding of local government officials to account, and influencing leaders to change the practice of early marriage and devaluing of girls’ education.
Business performance of women self-help groups under Godhan Nyay Yojna in model Gothan Bancharoda, Raipur district of Chhattisgarh.
The present study was conducted in Model Gothan Bancharoda Raipur district of Chhattisgarh, to know the business performance four women self-help group was selected purposively from the arrange block of Raipur district. Godhan Nyay Yojana is the scheme recently launched on 20 July 2020, on the occasion of Hareli, the first festival of the state by the Chhattisgarh Government. This scheme aims at boosting the rural economy by procuring cow dung. The primary data was collected in the economic year 2021-22 from sampled households through personal interview method. The field survey it was observed that maximum 71 percent members belonged to the age group of 35-45 years, Literacy Level of the Respondents was observed that 2 percent Respondents were illiterate and 98 per cent of Respondents are Literate and 98 per cent of members were married and remaining 2 per cent members of SHG were found widowed. The identified products was are cow dung Diya, cow dung Gamla, Organic soap, Cow dung Crockery Vermi Compost, Agnastra, Nimastra, Bramhastra, Dashparni ark. Total returns per year per product was observed Rs. 84000, 65,000, Rs. 3,14,300, Rs. 5168, Rs.6089, Rs.6089 and 6281 Rs respectively. On an average the benefit – cost ratio of Products (Diya, Gamla, Vermi Compost, Agnastra, Nimastra, Bramhastra and Dashparni ark) came to 1:1.16, 1:1.20, 1:1.45, 1:3.5, 1:3.5, and 1:3.6 respectively. Women's SHG made a total net profit of Rs. 4, 86, 927 per year from the various products.
The role of Village Savings and Loan Association in poverty graduation programs in Egypt: A process analysis
To combat chronic multidimensional poverty, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC)created the Graduation Approach, which consists of a Big Push effect implemented through a series of interventions including asset transfer, mentoring, saving groups and a series of service provisions, to push ultra-poor households to exit poverty sustainably. Implemented so far in over 50 countries, the model has shown positive results even after ten years of the first interventions. Sawiris Foundation for Social Development partnered with BRAC and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Laboratory (J-PAL) to implement the program in Egypt, starting in 2018, called Bab Amal. Here, we look at the model and focus on the saving groups and their effectiveness and comparing them to the current Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLA) methodology, implemented by multiple NGOs, and currently adopted by the Egyptian government to scale on a national level. The methodology is based on qualitative research informed by semi structured in depth interviews and focus group discussions with the participants of the program in Assiut and Sohag. The analysis shows that the graduation approach adopted in Bab Amal, including the saving groups component, has contributed to increasing savings, creating income generating activities, improving communication and decision-making abilities within the household and the group and empowering women socially and economically. The program also raised awareness on issues of hygiene, health, education, life skills, gender-based violence and drug addiction.
Analysis of Women's Cooperative management during the COVID-19 pandemic in Malang district
This study aims to find out how the management carried out by the Women's Cooperative during the Covid-19 pandemic in Malang Regency. The appropriate type of research is qualitative research. The approach that will be used for this research is the case study method. Interviews, documentation, and observations were conducted to collect data. Then after the data is collected, data interpretation and data validation are carried out. The results of this study found that in their management these women's operations must adapt to conditions during the pandemic, such as reducing operating hours, postponing meetings, holding meetings regularly, online, and reduce their routine activities. In addition, the obstacles in the savings and loan business sector during this pandemic are the increase in bad loans compared to before the pandemic, the lack of capital being channeled for loans to members and the difficulties of women's cooperative administrators in implementing the use of digital technology.
Impact of Self-Help Groups on Empowerment of Women
Women are the vital infrastructure and their empowerment would hasten the pace of social development. The present investigation was carried out in Amreli district of Gujarat State. District Watershed Development Unit (DWDU), Amreli (Gujarat) has formed SHGs under the Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) to create an awareness and participation among women residing in the rural pockets of Amreli district. To know the impact of SHGs a comparative study was carried out between SHG and non-SHG members. Only the SHGs which associated with IWMP from more than four years were selected while non-SHG members were selected from same villages only for the study. The diagnostic study was confi ned to 10 villages from which 90 SHGs and 90 non-SHG respondents were selected for the study. From the end results it is clearly indicated that exact two-fi fth (40.00%) SHG members were from medium level of empowerment followed by high and very high with 23.33 per cent and 21.11 per cent, respectively, whereas in case of Non-SHG members majority (57.78%) women were from low level of empowerment followed by medium level with 36.67 per cent and also the independent sample ‘Z’ test showed that there was highly signifi cant diff erence in the mean values of SHG members and Non-SHG members in case of all the components/ indicators
News and commentary on Women’s Groups
Village savings groups to register, file reports with govt
According to newly issued guidelines in Uganda, VSLAs will now apply for registration with the government twelve months after the date of commencement of its operations. Groups will also be mandated to disclose their membership, size, governance and management. These guidelines will be implemented from January 1, 2023.
Savings activities create avenues for income generation
With a shift from emergency relief to building resilience, the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) scheme is the beginning of Samaritan’s Purse South Sudan’s wider engagement with the community; to build their capacity in order to ensure a future that is sustainable, self-sufficient, and resilient.
Rural development campaign to expand self help group footprint
In a bid to increase the coverage of self help groups, the Ministry of Rural Development on Friday announced a nationwide campaign to expedite the inclusion of women who are left out of the umbrella of Self Help Groups (SHGs) under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay National Rural Livelihood Mission in India.
Women Self Help Groups to run Shimla’s book cafes
After jail inmates, women linked to Self-Help Groups (SHGs) will run the newly built book cafes in the Shimla, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh, India.