Systematic Review 23

Economic self-help group programmes for improving women’s empowerment

Systematic Review 23, 2016

This review by Brody and colleagues examines the effectiveness of self-help group (SHG) interventions in improving women’s empowerment. These small and voluntary groups aim for social change, often focusing on empowering their members. Economic self-help groups specifically offer women access to collective finance, including savings and loans, group credit, collective income-generation and micro-insurance. The review finds that women’s economic SHGs have a positive, statistically significant effect on women’s economic, social, and political empowerment. However, they were not able to confirm the same result for psychological empowerment. There were also no adverse consequences for domestic violence indicators in the long run. The qualitative synthesis suggests that observed positive effects on empowerment are achieved through various pathways, such as familiarity with handling money, financial decision-making, improved social networks, and respect in the household and/or community. However, despite the encouraging results, there was a lack of participation by the poorest of the poor. The findings indicate that donors can consider funding women’s SHGs to stimulate economic, social, and political empowerment. It is less clear whether there would be an effect on psychological empowerment. In order to help ensure participation by the poorest of the poor, it may be useful to consider social barriers, such as class or caste to ensure these interventions are inclusive.

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