From the ECWG Team
The Return on Investment of Self-Help Groups in India: Evidence from the JEEViKA Program in Bihar
We estimate the costs and Return on Investment of JEEViKA – a government-implemented rural livelihoods program that works with women’s self-help groups (SHGs) to promote financial inclusion, collective action, and livelihoods for rural women in Bihar, India. We estimate program costs using annual audit reports and combine the estimated costs with data from a randomized controlled trial that examined impacts on high-cost informal loans and consumption at two points – two years post, and seven years post program start. We further simulate long-term program impacts to estimate a range of ROIs based on different assumptions about costs and impact trajectories, because the original control sample had been exposed to the program by the seventh year. We find that 1 INR invested in the program increased consumption by 0.75 INR under the most conservative assumption, and by 4.9 INR under the least conservative assumption. Our estimation also indicates that the most conservative assumption can be reasonably ruled out because it does not align with the observed outcomes. In other words, we can reasonably but cautiously conclude that the program had a positive ROI after seven years.
Improving Evidence on Women’s Groups: a Proposed Typology and Common Reporting Indicators
Women’s groups are a widely implemented and researched development intervention, particularly in South Asia and Africa. Groups encompass many models and aim to address a range of objectives. However, there is no consistent approach to describing their varied implementation models, which hinders the accurate interpretation of evidence and construct validity. Drawing from three recent evidence reviews and research experience with groups, we propose a typology and common reporting indicators to describe women’s groups. As large-scale investments in women’s groups grow, these tools can support the interpretation and transferability of evidence across models and settings.
Read the paper published in Development in Practice
An Approach for Mapping Funding for Women’s Empowerment Collectives
In July 2022, Publish What You Fund (PWYF) released new evidence on funding to women’s economic empowerment (WEE) as part of their project on ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment: building evidence for better investment’. Through this project, PWYF tracked funding for WEE, Women’s Financial Inclusion (WFI), and Women’s Empowerment Collectives (WECs) in three focus countries: Kenya, Nigeria, and Bangladesh. This blog describes their findings, including challenges in tracking funding to women’s groups with WECs elements and what can be improved.
Evidence Consortium Presentations at the What Works Global Summit (WWGS) 2022
Our co-PI, Dr. Thomas de Hoop, presented our work on "Convergence of Social protection Programmes in India: The Impact of Self-Help Groups on Access to and Employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme" as part of the " International development and social welfare" panel.
Consortium members Dr. Tabitha Mulyampiti, Dr. Eve Namisango, and Dr. Thomas de Hoop, along with Dr. Kalkidan Lakew Yihun from CARE, presented our work on "Savings group member resilience COVID 19 pandemic: evidence from Nigeria and Uganda"
‘We are the bridge’: an implementation research study of SEWA Shakti Kendras to improve community engagement in publicly funded health insurance in Gujarat, India
India’s efforts towards universal health coverage include a national health insurance scheme that aims to protect the most vulnerable from catastrophic health expenditure. However, emerging evidence on publicly funded health insurance, as well as experience from community-based schemes, indicates that women face specific barriers to access and utilisation. Community engagement interventions have been shown to improve equitable utilisation of public health services, but there is limited research specific to health insurance. Our co-PI, Dr. Sapna Desai, along with others examined how existing community-based resource centres implemented by a women’s organisation could improve women’s access to, and utilisation of, health insurance.
©Gates Archive/Nelson Owoicho
From our partners
VSLA By the Numbers: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Impact and ROI of VSLAs
Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) have been a foundational programmatic approach at CARE since 1991. Since then, CARE has helped over 13.7 million people join savings groups. The savings group model has been adopted and adapted by a variety of organizations globally. Through this report, CARE examines the social and financial effects and returns of savings groups as well as how groups affected members’ resilience to COVID-19. The results gave an overview of the financial return on investment (ROI), group economic outcomes, savings groups costs, and individual and household effects for savings groups both inside and outside of CARE.
©Gates Archive/Saumya Khandelwal
Recent research on women’s groups
Impact of savings and credit co-operative societies’ services on household livelihood outcomes in Mwanza and Tabora rural areas, Tanzania
This study investigates whether Savings and Credit Co-operatives’ (SACCOS) services such as loans, savings and training improve household livelihood outcomes. The study employed a quasi-experimental design. Six SACCOS were purposively selected in four districts of Mwanza and Tabora regions in Tanzania. A sample of 500 respondents was randomly selected of whom 200 were SACCOS’ members and 300 were non-members. The results indicate that SACCOS’ services had significantly impacted on the household livelihood outcomes in terms of maize yields, household assets, savings, food expenditures and non-food expenditures.
Gender Gaps in Leadership: The Case of Savings Groups in Uganda
Village saving and loans associations (VSLAs) play critical roles in many countries, including Uganda, towards financial inclusion overall. VSLAs are critical in working towards two key components to financial inclusion: financial literacy and access to financial services. More than half of the adult population in Uganda either saves or borrows through this community-based service platform, and they are by far Uganda’s leading source of credit. VSLAs are successful in creating income-generating activities and the benefits are evident. However, little is known about its leadership. In Uganda, women dominate in the number of members in the VSLAs but are yet underrepresented in its leadership positions. This study conducts an investigation of how gender gaps in VSLA leadership can be measured and explained. The study also examines whether there are gender differences in the perception of leaders considered influential.
Assessing the Characteristics of Rural Savings Systems and Their Impacts on Rural Livelihoods of Selected Districts of Sierra Leone
Rural Community Savings systems are one of the solutions to empowering their members to generate more income in many parts of West African countries. This study attempts to assess 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. Participation in the savings program positively impacted various rural community. The study reveals a positive and highly statistically significant relationship between the age of the savings member and their Participation in RCSS.
A Review on Women AgriEntrepreneurship: Roles and opportunities in Agriculture for Sustainable Growth in India
Empowering Indian women farmers and agripreneurs can lead to increases in income generation and self-sufficiency. Although, the government has launched various schemes for upliftment of women agripreneurs. there is a lot to achieve in order to enable women groups from rural and tribal areas to have economic gains from the agriculture sector. This review study provides insights into the scope of agriculture entrepreneurship for upliftment of Indian women. It identifies major roles, opportunities and challenges for Indian women in the agriculture sector to achieve sustainable growth
News and commentary on Women’s Groups
eCOBbA’s Financial Inclusion Plans for the Unbanked
According to the World Bank Group, financial inclusion is a crucial tool for reducing extreme poverty and fostering shared prosperity, yet the more innovation we have in the financial sector, the more gaps that we have left to cover. To solve this problem, there was a call for applications to fill this gap within the Agritech sector in the just concluded Next Innovation with Japan (NINJA) accelerator program. Interestingly, one of the businesses with a huge capacity for partnership was eCOBbA – a Kenya-based startup with a platform for Africa’s unbanked and underserved communities that leverages community savings and lending groups to drive industrialization. Their team operates a B2B2C model with primary consumers being in the informal sector, women, youth, improvised communities, and SMEs in the agro-value chains.
Hustler Fund vs Uwezo Fund: Difference Between Loans Benefiting Kenyan Youth
President William Ruto, on Tuesday, November 15, through a Cabinet despatch, revealed the terms and conditions of his flagship Hustler Fund programme. The fund targets women, youths and people from the low socioeconomic class in Kenya who must form groups to access the loans. The money available is Ksh500 to Ksh50,000 for personal loans and up to Ksh250,000 for chamas.
What Credit Flow Tell Us about the State of Self-Help Groups in Various States
A comparison between the 2017-18 and 2020-21 financial years reveals that the amount of loans issued has increased by 43%, and the amount of interest subvention has gone up by 27%. The article indicates that the demand for fresh loans is high in major states like Tripura, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. But the same is not true for many other major states like Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, where loan disbursement is falling, but outstanding credit is increasing.
Money Fellows, an Egyptian fintech digitizing money circles, raises $31 million funding
Egyptian fintech Money Fellows has raised $31 million in what it describes as the first close of its Series B investment. Money Fellows’ premise is the digitization of money circles or what’s commonly known as the Rotating Savings and Credit Association (ROSCAs), a system where a group of people agree to contribute money for a specific period, thereby saving and borrowing together.
Ela Bhatt, founder of SEWA, passes away at 89
Ela Bhatt, renowned Gandhian and founder of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), passed away in Ahmedabad on November 2 following a brief illness. She was 89. A board member of the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust, Ela Bhatt was a receipient of the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shree and was also a Rajya Sabha member. She will be best remembered for her pioneering work in the women’s empowerment movement and the legacy she leaves in the form of creating India’s first cooperative bank for women—SEWA Bank.
Saving Money, Saving Lives
ABADEI is a UNDP Afghanistan flagship programme that supports livelihoods and basic services, boosting local economies; builds or refurbishes community infrastructure, helps build disaster and climate resilience, and enhances bottom-up, inclusive community engagement and involvement. Among these interventions was the savings programme, which aimed to provide an alternative to the collapsed Afghan banking sector.
Microfinance: 82% of loan portfolio concentrated in 10 states only, says RBI deputy governor
As on 30 June 2022, the total microfinance loan portfolio in India stood at Rs 2.93 lakh crore, in which banks held the largest share of 38 per cent followed closely by non-banking financial company-microfinance institutions (NBFC-MFIs) at 35 per cent, said Rao. Taken together with the loan portfolio under Self Help Group (SHG)-bank linkage, the overall size of the microfinance loan portfolio is around Rs 4.82 lakh crore. RBI’s SHG-bank linkage programme focuses on helping people with lower income access financial services.