Abstract: Intervention Mapping to Identify Opportunities to Build Socio-Economic Capacity in Resource-Constrained Environments: The Case of Widows in South India (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Intervention Mapping to Identify Opportunities to Build Socio-Economic Capacity in Resource-Constrained Environments: The Case of Widows in South India

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Chrisann Newransky, PhD, Assistant Professor, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
Karen Kayser, PhD, Professor, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Background. In low and middle-income countries, widowhood is a risk factor for adverse health outcomes. Widows in India are a particularly vulnerable group due to age-old beliefs and customs associated with widowhood. Excluded by society, many widows are denied basic human rights to employment, safe housing, and health care. Economic support and social empowerment play a critical role in improving the quality of life for widows in rural India. Women’s self-help groups (SHGs) are seen as a vehicle for anti-poverty programs and a platform for mobilization around social, political, and health issues. Research indicates participation in SHG training is associated with increased self-efficacy and social inclusion among South Indian widows. Less is known about how SHGs training can support widows in expanding and sustaining individual and small group enterprises. In this study, social work researchers partnered with an NGO focusing on the empowerment of widows through SHGs in Tamil Nadu, India. Using a Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach, this study aimed to understand the needs, resources, and opportunities for socio-economic empowerment of SHG widows in order to identify the critical components of a training program.

Methods. This mixed methods study used purposeful sampling to target information-rich cases in order to maximize limited resources. Participants were 73 widows from six SGHs in five areas of Tamil Nadu. A short, bilingual Tamil-English structured survey instrument was used to collect individual-level quantitative data about resources, socio-economic needs, and challenges to enterprise development. Then six semi-structured focus groups were conducted with survey participants to collectively discuss survey data and facilitators/barriers to small enterprise development. These data were coded and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results. The majority of women (85%) were widowed, while a few identified as being abandoned (8%). On average, the women had two children, but some had none (18%) and others had four or more. Most women had little formal education. The percentage of group members with small enterprises varied from 9% to 64%. Themes of focus group data on barriers to small enterprise development were socio-cultural (discrimination), lack of resources (material, leadership, team work, knowledge and transportation), structural (competition), individual characteristics (mistrust), and environmental conditions. Themes related to facilitators of small business development were resources (material, financial, information) and individual characteristics (skills, motivation).

Implications. By using a CBPR approach, the women were engaged as partners in co-learning what resources would be helpful in building their capacity to develop enterprises that are sustainable, profitable, and affect social change. Most women had ideas for the types of businesses they would like to develop. Although most of these enterprises were already familiar to them, they wanted skills to expand enterprises, reduce dependence on others, and sustain them in a changing environment. The women identified many barriers on different levels to building their capacity to become entrepreneurs. While the list may seem daunting, they were able to identify several factors that could facilitate their goals. We translated these findings into a logic model for mapping a community-based training program that is culturally-appropriate, scalable, and sustainable.