Dear WEESA Community Members,

This month, the WEESA Community of Practice explores resources that help us understand the design, implementation, and impact of women’s groups in South Asia. Countries in South Asia have a longer history of women’s group activity than other parts of the world. Groups offer both direct and indirect pathways to economic empowerment and are most effective at targeting women from marginalized and low-income backgrounds. They include self-help groups (SHGs), livelihoods groups, and producer collectives as well as groups formed with social action, health, and empowerment objectives. The positive impacts of group participation include improvements in household income, savings, and resilience to unforeseen economic shocks. In addition, women also report increased empowerment through increased decision-making power and participation in political spheres.

This newsletter, prepared by our guest editors, Najaf Zahra and Sama Khan, includes recent publications that gauge the impact of group participation on many dimensions of women’s empowerment. We also include resources that demonstrate how women’s groups pivoted to address the needs of women and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Happy reading!
Najaf & Sama
Spotlight
Systematic Review: What do We Know About Interventions to Increase Women’s Economic Participation and Empowerment in South Asia: Self-help Group Programs
The South Asia Gender Innovation Lab has published a review of studies that evaluate self-help group (SHG) programs as a mechanism for achieving changes in women’s economic outcomes. This review is part of a larger systematic review of rigorously evaluated interventions with direct or indirect effects on measures of women’s income, labor market, and empowerment outcomes in the South Asia region.

The review finds that participation in SHG programs positively affects saving amounts, civic inclusion, and measures of social capital. However, evidence for impacts on attitudes toward violence against women, self-perceptions, or aspirations is insufficient. The review highlights several avenues needing further exploration to allow for a better understanding (and the successful replication) of the group-based model.
Read here
Featured Resources
Group-based livelihood interventions in low-medium income countries
This map provides evidence on the impact of group-based livelihoods programs on household and individual economic, social, and empowerment outcomes. It includes over 130 impact evaluations and systematic reviews authored between January 1996 and April 2018. Find the map here
A case study of JEEViKA
Using primary survey data, this paper compares changes in different socio-economic factors of SHG women and non-SHG women. It assesses three main dimensions, i.e., loan size, savings pattern, and women empowerment. Read more here
Economies of scale of large-scale international development interventions: Evidence from self-help groups in India
This paper presents evidence on the association between program scale, costs, and cost-effectiveness by analyzing how the costs of a large-scale Self-Help Group program in India changed from its inception in 2007 to its scale-up in 2019. Read more here
Unheard voices: the challenge of inducing women’s economic speech
Policymakers have tried to induce women’s participation by leveraging the group-based format of self-help groups, which can build women’s social capital and develop their sense of political efficacy and identity. This paper evaluates the impact of one such intervention, known as the Pudhu Vaazhvu Project, on women’s civic participation in rural Tamil Nadu. Read more here
Do SHG programs mitigate a household’s vulnerability to extreme weather events? 
This paper addresses the question through a natural experiment arising from two independent but overlapping sources of variation: exposure to a devasting cyclone that occurred in the Bay of Bengal region in India and the rollout of a rural livelihood intervention. Read more here
Impact of COVID-19 on rural SHG women in Odisha
This report presents findings from a study that was conducted to assess the impact of COVID-19 on SHG women in Odisha. The objectives of the study were to (i) study the overall impacts on women’s well-being during and post the lockdown period and (ii) understand SHG participation in COVID-19 response activities. Read more here
Blogs
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed lives for many. Women’s groups have adapted, reprioritized, and reorientated their work schedules to provide health and livelihood assistance to communities. Read more about how groups in Afghanistan and India provided formal and informal safety nets to communities during the pandemic.
Virtual Events
Past Events: 
Mechanisms in Women’s Groups Interventions: Findings from two recent reviews
This webinar brings together panelists with wide experience in implementing and researching women’s group interventions to discuss evidence on livelihoods, health, and adolescent interventions. 
Presenters: Lu Gram (UCL), Seema Jayachandran (Northwestern University) & Lucia Diaz-Martin (J-PAL)
View the recording

Economic Inclusion and the National Rural Livelihoods
Mission (NRLM) Jeevika
This webinar presents implementation perspectives on how Jeevika—one of the world’s largest programs for strengthening rural financial inclusion and livelihoods that operates as part of India’s NRLM—has leveraged communities to build strong and resilient livelihood and financial platforms.
Presenters: Paramveer Singh (World Bank) and Shagun Sabarwal (J-PAL)
View the recording

Upcoming Events: 
Gender Norms and Women's Work
| May 5, 2022
J-PAL’s Gender and Economic Agency (GEA) Initiative, in partnership with the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) East Africa, is hosting a webinar to discuss policy-relevant research on gender norms and attitudes relating to women’s economic empowerment across different global contexts. Register here

The 9th South Asia Economic Network Conference on Social Norms and Gender Equality | May 11-12, 2022
The 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development emphasized social norms as a core obstacle in achieving gender equality and a key driver of gender outcomes. Hosted by the World Bank’s Office of the Chief Economist in the South Asia Region, the focus of the 9th South Asia Economic Network Conference will be on Social Norms and Gender Equality. Please visit here for more information.
What We Are Watching
Documentary | Finding the Light Within | Stories of Young Women Self Help Groups in Uttar Pradesh
The film showcases an unfolding movement in villages of Uttar Pradesh where young women are organizing themselves to fight injustice and poverty with the aid of Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana, a grassroots level organization. Over 62,000 girls from 42 districts in Uttar Pradesh are part of the initiative. View the documentary 
Job Vacancies
IFC ET Consultant (Sector: Gender)
Location: Washington, D.C., United States  Deadline: May 5, 2022
IDB Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming in Migration Operations Consultant
Location: Washington, D.C., United States  Deadline: May 5, 2022
ADB Gender-inclusive Private Sector Measurement Specialist - Individual Consultant
Location: International  Deadline:  May 5, 2022
UN Women Gender, Climate Change, and DRR Officer
Location: Kathmandu, Nepal  Deadline: May 14, 2022
About Us
WEESA is a knowledge community designed with the goal of strengthening the linkages between evidence and action by curating evidence on “what works,” amplifying local voices and knowledge and enhancing local capacity on women’s economic empowerment in the region through small grants for local organizations and researchers. 

WEESA is hosted by the World Bank’s 
South Asia Region Gender Innovation Lab (SAR GIL), a solutions platform for gender equality, supported by the Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE) and the South Asia Regional Trade Facilitation Program
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