SR b8

Do self-help groups empower women? Evidence from a systematic review

Poverty combined with structural factors that perpetuate social marginalisation cause women to be doubly disadvantaged. Promoting self-help groups (SHGs) has been the institutional response of development practitioners, governments, civil society and donors, especially in South Asia. It however remains unclear whether and to what extent SHGs empower women and if, there are any adverse consequences to participation in SHGs for women, particularly in the form of domestic violence.

This brief summarises the key findings from a recent 3ie systematic review by Carinne Brody, Thomas De Hoop, Martina Vojtkova, Ruby Warnock, Megan Dunbar, Padmini Murthy and Shari L Dworkin on the effectiveness of economic self-help group programmes in improving women’s empowerment.

This systematic review synthesises evidence from 23 quantitative studies and 11 qualitative studies to understand the effectiveness of SHGs in empowering women. Of the 34 studies included, 26 studies evaluated programmes in South Asia (mainly India), one in East Asia, and two each in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Main findings:

  • SHGs do positively impact women’s empowerment in some dimensions, particularly economic and social empowerment.
  • Participation in SHGs does not lead to increased domestic violence for women.
  • Impact is found to be higher when participation in SHGs is accompanied by a training programme.
  • SHGs can be exclusionary in as much as they do not mostly include the poorest of the poor.

SR18 life-cycle WASH

Using a life-cycle approach to target WASH policies and programmes in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa

Systematic review Brief 3ie 2018
The brief summarises a systematic review on the effectiveness of two approaches to targeting populations in programmes and policies to reduce barriers to accessing WASH services and strategies during the MDGs.


Creating active labour markets: how to improve employment outcomes for young women and men

Systematic review Brief 3ie 2017
This brief is based on a systematic review which examines the effects of active labour market programmes for youth, including training and skills development, entrepreneurship promotion, employment services and subsidised employment.


Community-based health insurance: how to promote effective and equitable coverage?

Systematic review Brief 3ie 2017
The brief is based on a systematic review examining the demand and supply factors that affect uptake and renewal of community-based voluntary health insurance schemes in L&MICs.


Access to health: How to reduce child and maternal mortality?

Systematic review Brief 3ie 2010
Systematic reviews show that access to community-based health services reduces neonatal mortality and still births, but t he effect on maternal mortality is harder to detect.

SR b2

Focus on Female Genital Mutilation

Systematic review Brief 3ie 2013
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) has negative health consequences for women, ranging from pain, bleeding, and shock due to chronic infections. Around 140 million girls and women live with the risks caused by FGM/C, of which 92 million girls and women are in Africa.