Abstract: How Empowering Is Economic Empowerment for Women? : Findings from Experimental Study in Burkina Faso (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

How Empowering Is Economic Empowerment for Women? : Findings from Experimental Study in Burkina Faso

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 10:15 AM
Union Square 25 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Leyla Karimli, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Leyla Ismayilova, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, IL
Els Lecoutere, PhD, Researcher, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
Jo Sanson, Director of Monitoring, Evaluation and Research, Trickle Up
Rachel Nanema, Program Manager. Ouagadougou, Trickle Up
Background and Purpose: The evidence linking women’s access to resources to their improved bargaining power is inconsistent. Furthermore, the effect of economic strengthening interventions may not be homogeneous across all decision making domains. And very little robust evidence is available on these issues for Sub-Saharan Africa. To address gap, we tackle 3 main questions: (1) Does microfinance intervention targeting women increase the ratio of women’s access to resources relative to household’s resources? (2) How does access to or control over economic resources translate into women’s decision-making power and gender beliefs? (3) Does this effect vary by family structure (i.e. polygamous vs. monogamous families.

Methods: The study, implemented in Nord Region of Burkina Faso (ClinicalTrial.gov ID: NCT02415933), uses a cluster-randomized design with two treatment arms and one control arm. Randomization was conducted at the village level to avoid cross-arm contamination. Decision to randomize at the village level was also informed by extensive consultations with the community leaders: the study was conducted in close-knit rural setting, where providing economic strengthening intervention for some households and not for eh others in the same community could potentially create mistrust among the community members.

Twelve villages located in the Nord Region of Burkina Faso were randomly assigned to one of the three study arms. All eligible participants in the village were assigned to the same study group. Repeated-measures data was collected at baseline, at 12 months, and at 24 months from female caregivers (n=360). Data was collected using a 60-minut interviewer-administered instrument. Attrition rate comprises less than 2% with total of n=7 cases missing at 24-month follow-up.

The intervention has two treatment arms: economic strengthening (Trickle Up) offered to female caregivers, and combination of economic strengthening with family-coaching component (Trickle Up Plus) offered to all household members.

For outcome analyses, we ran multilevel mixed-effects models that allow estimating subject-specific effects while taking into account clustering of subjects within villages. We model the between-village variability as a random effect. We also account for a possible within-individual correlation (due to the repeated-measures nature of the data) by modelling the within-individual variability as random effect.

Results: We found that, intervention improved women’s access to resources (i.e. greater number of livestock owned, higher value of livestock owned, and greater amount saved at both 12 months and 24 months). However, this improved access to economic resources translated only to marginal changes in women’s decision-making power and gender belief.

Conclusions and Implications: Our study contributes to the ongoing debate about the role of microfinance in empowering women. Our findings contradict the existing belief that economically empowered women, regardless the general cultural context and societal norms, are better placed to navigate interpersonal relationships and have stronger decision-making power.