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Women’s Empowerment Program (WEP) Midterm Report

Publication Date: 15/07/2012

In 2009, Norad-funded women empowerment programs (WEPs) started implementation in seven countries: Burundi, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. In 2009 and early 2010, an extensive quantitative baseline study was conducted in these countries around a common set of indicators. The present mid-term review (MTR), which was done using qualitative methodology, analysed in depth the process and nature of changes that the programs are contributing towards. In all the program countries, the country WEP team carried out the review internally with the technical assistance of an external consultant and CARE Norway (CN).

With slight variations, the overall objectives of the country WEPs focused on the economic, social, and political empowerment of women. The village savings and loan association (VSLA) methodology was common for all the programs; and these groups create the platform for working on other aspects of the program besides economic empowerment. The initial changes that the programs produce are seen in terms of increased access to savings and loans, employment opportunities, and asset ownership. The ability of the women to earn income, generate their own savings and make financial contributions in the household (HH) has greatly improved their self-esteem, thereby giving them better leverage to involve in and influence HH decision making processes. Men were highly appreciative of the income women were able to bring in to the family as a result of being involved in VSLAs. Through their improved position in the household, women reported being able to negotiate the use of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and the abandonment of different harmful practices. Through the use of couples-based approach and engaging men initiatives, HH relationships are beginning to improve; men in these households are reportedly starting to have a more positive attitude towards women’s empowerment and are themselves even taking part in domestic activities in some contexts. The VSLA approach is enabling women to create strong social networks that are becoming an influential force for social change. As a result of increased knowledge on their human rights and increasing leadership skills, women are beginning to understand how they have to position themselves to realize their strategic interests. The VSLA groups and networks also enable women to mobilise support when they are running for elections; this support has increased number of women being elected into different posts. The contribution of women in VSLAs and in community leadership positions is being increasingly recognised and appreciated by local authority figures, which can be seen when they actively seek the advice of women and VSL groups in relation to different community development initiatives.
Through working in partnership with others, the programs are being implemented in a high quality and timely manner. Engagement with strategic partners has occurred effectively in some countries, and been instrumental in enabling the programs to link grassroots evidence to national level advocacy activities which have achieved concrete results. [52 pages]