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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Best buys for Africa: Women’s Empowerment Collectives (self-help groups)

Fast-track Analysis

Women’s Empowerment Collectives – also known as Self Help Groups (SHGs) - are voluntary groups, typically comprised of 15-25 women who meet every week to save, start small business activities, and grant loans to one another. They have been used in a wide range of contexts, adapted for refugees, caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children, people living with HIV/AIDs, adolescents, as well as layered with maternal, neonatal, child, and sexual and reproductive health support. 

Importantly, these groups use a combination of empowerment, collective action and economic strengthening to yield a range of substantial outcomes. A person’s social capacities have been shown to be one of the strongest determinants of whether a person is able to escape and remain out of poverty, and a mounting evidence base that layers women’s collectives with health messaging has yielded very significant reductions in maternal and neonatal mortality. While the evidence is still nascent, Self Help Groups offer the potential to catalyze and leverage poverty reduction efforts.