Women’s economic empowerment in emergency contexts: Niger case study
Publication Date: 15/08/2019
While discussion of the ‘Humanitarian, Development and Peace Nexus’ continues within the sector, there remains debate as to whether women’s economic empowerment is a luxury, or even feasible in humanitarian contexts where the priority is to keep people alive. Increasingly, however, humanitarians are seeing interventions aimed at women’s economic empowerment in emergency contexts as a key tool to increase protection and support people in crises to live in dignity. CARE set out to analyse whether financial inclusion strategies like community-led savings groups may in fact represent a way to not only respond to crises, but also to build resilience against them, even in highly fluid contexts.
In June 2018, CARE teams conducted fieldwork in two areas where it is implementing ongoing humanitarian interventions. CARE organised focus groups and interviews with communities and individuals in Diffa and Konni where it has delivered humanitarian assistance. The interventions combined blanket cash distributions, and the establishment of savings and credit groups which also provided women with life skills and business training to set up small businesses.
Within a crisis setting, combining a savings group structure including income generation support with humanitarian assistance such as food and non-food items (NFIs) helped women not only to meet basic needs in a more sustainable way, but also improved their independent access to and control over money.
During emergencies, providing women with humanitarian cash to cover basic needs allowed women in savings groups to continue saving and to invest in income generating activities (IGA), rather than using up capital on food.
If crises continue to hit, the positive impact of savings groups set up in emergencies can become strained. In this case, further cash interventions can preserve small businesses.
Membership of savings groups and receipt of IGAs and life skills training increased women’s income and confidence. Membership of a savings group provides psychosocial benefits to women who are suffering anxiety, depression or trauma by providing a social network that meets and talks regularly.