Economic self‐help group programs for improving women’s empowerment

Added August 24, 2020

Citation: Brody C, de Hoop T, Vojtkova M, et al. Economic Self‐Help group Programs for Improving Women’s Empowerment: A Systematic Review. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2015;11(1):1-182.

What is this? The COVID-19 pandemic has caused increased poverty and food insecurity, which has disproportionately affected the most marginalized people. Existing research on economic self-help groups for promoting women’s empowerment might be helpful for policy makers planning for the immediate and long-term response to COVID-19.

In this Campbell systematic review, the authors searched for quantitative studies of the effects of self-help interventions and qualitative studies on mechanisms that empower women and perspectives of women in low- and middle-income countries. The did not restrict their searches by language of publication and searched for articles published between 1980 and January 2014. They included 23 quantitative studies representing data from 21 self help groups which were in Bangladesh (6 groups), Ethiopia (1), Haiti (1), India (11), South Africa (1) and Thailand (1); and 12 qualitative studies, from Bolivia (1 study), India (9), Nepal (1) and Tanzania (1).

What was found: Economic self-help groups have positive effects on women’s economic and political empowerment, as well as social empowerment – such as, women’s family size decision-making power and social mobility.

Self-help groups that include a training element have larger effects on women’s empowerment.

There is no evidence of increased levels of domestic violence and qualitative data indicate that self-help groups may decrease domestic violence as women gain respect from their partners, families and access to household decision-making.

Economic self-help groups do not always reach the poorest citizens; with the ‘poorest of the poor’ not participating for economic reasons, social exclusion of the most marginalized and mechanisms of self-selection.

There is no quantitative evidence to indicate positive effects on women’s psychological empowerment but qualitative data suggest that women participating in self-help groups perceive themselves as psychologically empowered.

It is uncertain what types of training are most effective in achieving women’s empowerment.


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