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Does Agency Matter and do Microfinance Self-help Groups Empower Women? A Case Study of a Joint-microfinance and Coffee Cooperative from the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Selhausen, Felix Meier
Conference: Design and Dynamics of Institutions for Collective Action: A Tribute to Prof. Elinor Ostrom, Second Thematic Conference of the IASC
Location: Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Conf. Date: 29 November - 1 December
Date: 2012
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8658
Sector: Agriculture
Social Organization
Region: Africa
Subject(s): agency
Abstract: "Collective action in the form of microfinance self-help groups (SHGs) has been increasingly hailed for its positive economic impact and its empowerment of women but also for excluding those most in need of collective action. This study examines womens agency from two perspectives suggested by Amartya Sen using a case study 26 self-help groups of a joint microfinance and coffee co-operative from Western Uganda. Firstly, the study attempts to provide a new framework for exploring self-selection by comparing levels of agency of female non-SHG members and members before participation in SHGs. Results indicate that women who join and stay in SHGs are initially wealthier in terms of land than their female cohort from the community whereas autonomy over marriage and human capital formation are not systematically different. Secondly, this paper investigates the impacts of collective action on womens decisionmaking agency in particular whether length of membership matters. The paper finds that length of membership has no effect over spouses joint decision-making and income pooling but reduces wives tolerance of gender-based violence. However, other indicators such as inheritance patters, daughters age at first marriage, occurrence of domestic violence, and freedom of movement are not statistically significant, indicating that empowerment is a process of internal change of power within and behaviors that is neither lineal, nor can be achieved over night."

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