Self Help Group Support and Women Empowerment: Evidence from Beneficiaries of the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) in Nairobi County, Kenya
Self help groups (SHGs) enable women, especially poor women to improve their lives and those of their households by providing a platform for interacting with one another, pooling resources together, mobilizing savings, and undertaking collective livelihood support in running small businesses. They have therefore been cited as an important tool for empowering women in a number of developing countries. This paper employs a descriptive approach to examine the association between Self Help Group Support (also known as social capital) and empowerment for women members accessing microfinance services from the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF). The paper is based on the findings of a wider study on the impact of WEF Microfinance intervention programme on women empowerment, carried out between October 2015 and January 2016 in Nairobi County. A sample of 385 women was drawn randomly from 167 active self help groups that were beneficiaries of microcredit and other financial services from WEF. Data was collected using a structured questionnaire. Self-help group support was measured by two indicators: frequency of group meetings per month, and number of social activities women engage in to support each other. Empowerment was considered multidimensional and measured along the following dimensions: financial advancement, spending on aspects of human development (children’s education, nutrition and health), economic decision-making and social/psychological empowerment. The findings revealed that frequency of group meetings as well as number of social activities had a significant impact on women empowerment, though impacts were not uniform across all dimensions of empowerment, for example, the two SHG indicators had no influence on women’s spending on human development aspects at household level. The paper concludes that the meetings and social activities associated with self help groups have a significant impact on women empowerment.
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