For Afghan women, money talks

31 Jan 2020

Aqila, 19 | Self-Help Group member and embroiderer | Balkh Province

Hand in Hand’s programmes are already known to boost incomes, increase savings and “drastically reduce” poverty for women and their families. Now, according to independent research, another impact can be added to the list: increasing women’s influence and decision-making in the home.

The finding stems from an ongoing joint-project in Afghanistan between Hand in Hand and CARE, designed to test what happens when programmes that target women’s social empowerment are blended with programmes that target their economic empowerment.

Six months into the 22-month programme, researchers from Global Impact Management Consulting found that 44 percent of women who receive both business training and social empowerment training already reported having more influence and decision-making power in the home. Perhaps more surprisingly, an almost equal number of women who only receive Hand in Hand’s business training – 38 percent – reported the same. Both numbers are expected to increase as the programme progresses.

“Ultimately, Self-Help Groups are about helping our members launch and manage their own micro-enterprises. But along the way, we see their communication skills and confidence improve as well,” says Hand in Hand International Programme Development Manager Isabel Creixell. “Add to that their own source of income, and power dynamics inside the household start to shift for the better.”

Researchers highlighted other interesting findings including the role of older women, particularly mothers-in-law, in enforcing social norms that restrict younger women from leaving the home and making their own decisions – in other words, from running a business. They also noted a related finding: businesses that involved women’s families, especially their mothers-in-law and husbands, tended to outperform those that didn’t.

Both findings will have implications on our future programmes, which will seek to recruit young members’ mothers-in-law and other family members into Self-Help Groups, and train all members on taking a “family approach to business”.

The project concludes in November.

Study conducted 6 months into the 22-month project (27% complete)

Women taking only Hand in Hand business training who report increased decision-making in the home: 38%

Women taking business and social training who report increased decision-making in the home: 45%