Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                    1                                       Heather ...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                    2Introduction   ...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                        3automatical...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                         4women are ...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                    5Given the extra...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                        6be repaid. ...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                   7The people affec...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                         8that credi...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                     9what their cha...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                    10their subordin...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                      11Program Desi...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                  12discussion to as...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                   13adapt their cur...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                        14about the ...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                   15highly trained ...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                       16begin for w...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                    17the use of per...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                    18not attend the...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                   19want to attend ...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                     20It is benefic...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                    21       In the...
Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon                                                22                  ...
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Program Design: Strengthening Women's Economic Empowerment in Cameroon


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This final paper for a course at George Washington University includes the design for a behavior change intervention I developed in 2012. The proposed intervention is based on a literature review only and not field research. The paper was meant to be an intellectual exercise only and was never meant to be implemented.

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Transcript of "Program Design: Strengthening Women's Economic Empowerment in Cameroon"

  1. 1. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 1 Heather Risley George Washington University Social and Behavior Change Program Proposal: Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon
  2. 2. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 2Introduction Women in Cameroon consistently face higher barriers to economic security compared to men.In addition to high levels of poverty, women face unique challenges that hinder them from being able tomake enough money to feed their families and send their children to school. Evidence has shown thatwhen women have control over money, they are more likely to invest in health care and education fortheir children – both crucial steps to breaking the cycle of poverty. The ability to start a home-basedbusiness is also important to poverty reduction. An assessment of how microcredit affects self-employment found that “India’s rural banking reform programme increased the likelihood of women’sself-employment as own-account workers, while having little effect on men’s self-employment work asown-account workers. A possible explanation is that since women have restricted access to formalemployment in developing countries such as India, when the household obtains a loan, it is rational forwomen to become self-employed and to start a home-based business” (Menon and Rodgers 2009). Inthe case of India, Lanjouw and Murgai (2009) find that "rural diversification and the expansion of non-farm employment, including self-employment, are directly associated with a decline in rural poverty." In a survey of research regarding the strengthening of women’s economic empowerment,improving access to credit is the dominant means of intervention. These interventions generally addresshow microfinance organizations can improve their services to better meet the needs of women andstrategies to better inform women what financial services are available to them. Microfinance isstrongly supported by the international donor community, and many microfinance institutions aroundthe world are proving to be profitable. Through the “financial self-sustainability paradigm,” supportedby organizations such as the World Bank-funded Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) andadopted in key policy documents coming out of Microfinance Summits, “womens participation ingroups is promoted as a key means of increasing financial sustainability and poverty targeting throughdrawing on social capital, while at the same time being assumed to empower women through
  3. 3. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 3automatically strengthening this social capital” (Mayoux 2001). However, providing greater access toloans solves only part of the problem. Other social and cultural trends are at work, which contribute towomen’s continued economic dependency. In fact, a recent World Bank Enterprise Survey actuallyrefutes the notion that females face greater challenges accessing credit than men. According to thereport, an analysis of performance gaps between male- and female-owned companies in Eastern Europeand Central Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa showed no “evidence of gender-baseddiscrimination in access to formal finance (‘supply constraint’) in any of these three regions” (Bardasi etal. 2011). These findings suggest that to really make a difference in women’s empowerment, theintervention has to be more comprehensive. In this paper, I adopt a comprehensive definition of economic empowerment, which includesnot only increased income, but other variables such as more equitable control over householdexpenditures, access to suppliers, and admission to business networks historically dominated by men.This definition is based on the distinction made first by economist Amartya Sen between income povertyand capabilities poverty (Sen 1999). The experiences of Cameroonian women echo the argumentsagainst solely providing loans. Numerous microfinance organizations exist in Cameroon that specificallytarget the rural female population; however, access to credit alone is not contributing to higher incomegeneration or empowerment more broadly. Despite the variety of financial service options available tothem, research shows that many women are actually dependent on loans in order to survive (Mayoux2001). Therefore, the specific problem I identify is not an inability to access credit, but an inability tocapitalize on these loans and to participate equitably in the larger economy.State of Women in Rural Cameroon Linda Mayoux’s paper (2001) on social capital and women’s empowerment in Cameroonprovides the basis for most of the following summary on the obstacles women confront in that country.The problems are numerous and complex. Cameroonian culture is embedded with the notion that
  4. 4. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 4women are subservient to men. At the individual level, many women feel subordination should beaccepted, and their position in life should be borne as best as possible. This sort of attitude results in alack of confidence that they have any agency in controlling their economic future. Compounded withthis mindset, women commonly believe that people are poor because they don’t work hard enough. Ifwomen don’t see a common purpose amongst themselves and recognize their collective strength,achieving greater levels of social capital might prove more difficult. At the community level, a numberof social norms work against women’s ability to become economically empowered. For example, malesdominate more lucrative industries, which due to socially imposed gender segregation in markets,prevents many women from participating in activities that might make them more money. Unequalvertical linkages are also a problem. Men and women with higher social capital within the community(those that hold more power, due to financial reasons or otherwise) control access to goods and servicesconsidered critical to financial success. If social norms dictate that more powerful people in thecommunity can deny more vulnerable women access to these critical inputs, women will never be ableto scale their economic activities and become less financially dependent on loans. Barriers also exist at the household level. Both law and culture enforce the idea that women aresubordinate to their husbands, and in the case where a man has multiple wives, junior wives are evenmore vulnerable. In Cameroon, the man has ultimate control over household expenditures. Thehusband dictates what goods shall be bought with household income, which is often not in the bestinterest of women and children. Women are often left to come up with extra income just to feedthemselves or obtain education and healthcare for their children. For these reasons, obtaining a loan inCameroon, usually through group lending, is a popular option. However, the loan can sometimesbackfire. When a husband learns his wife has been able to get a loan, he may be even less inclined tocontribute to household necessities, and a bigger burden is placed on the wife to pay back the loan.
  5. 5. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 5Given the extraordinary burdens placed on women, they have to work long hours, leaving little time forstarting a new business or volunteering that would improve their situations. At the structural level, there is little improvement in women’s protection. There are a numberof serious legal issues that prevent women from participating equitably in economic activities. Womenare more often the target of bribery and extortion at various points in the value chain. They are alsomore vulnerable to sexual harassment and even rape. The law in Cameroon is too weak to prevent anyof these cruelties. Finally, local law makes women the dependents of men, and the rights of childrenpass through male lineage upon separation or divorce. This reality brings about a host of unfortunateconsequences. As a result, women are less likely to know what income their husbands make and aredependent on either their husbands or loans to obtain necessary household items, education andhealthcare. Given these complex and interdependent problems, it is clear that a solution will have totake into consideration both access to financial services as well as other means by which women canparticipate in the economy more equitably with men.Leveraging Local Assets Despite the challenges, some aspects of Cameroonian society could be leveraged to women’sadvantage and to address the problems identified. First, there is a strong Christian influence whichsupports communal activities among women. Consequently, there has been a long history of forminggroups within the community to solve common problems that affect women. These pre-existing groupsare an asset to any intervention seeking to leverage women’s collective skills. Also, at least ninemicrofinance organizations are active in Cameroon. Efforts should be made to form partnerships withthese organizations to exert more influence on improving women’s prospects. As women are theirprimary clients, there would be a natural incentive to provide additional services and support to women,ultimately allowing them to take out bigger sums of money and increasing the probability the loans will
  6. 6. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 6be repaid. Identifying existing champions of women’s welfare in all aspects of the community andgaining their support is critical to the long-term success of any intervention. It is unrealistic to design a project that seeks to tackle all of these problems at once. The Self-Help Group program (SHG), implemented in the rural area of Tamil Nadu, India in 1998, took aparticipatory approach in strengthening women’s groups which acted as a catalyst for change in manydifferent ways. According to Tesoriero’s evaluation report, the project saw positive results in trulychanging the position of women in the community so that they could accomplish a number ofcommunity development initiatives that directly benefited them (2006). As opposed to the GrameenBank in Bangladesh, “SHGs are more participatory and driven from the grassroots, while at the sametime demanding more skills of women…" (2006). The general objectives of SHG relate to socialempowerment (equal status, participation in decision-making), economic empowerment (access to andcontrol over resources, reduced vulnerability, and increase in income), and capacity building (increasedskills, knowledge, self- and mutual help, and leadership roles). The SHGs were comprised of 12 to 20 ofthe most vulnerable women in the community. Tesoriero states that critical to the program’s successwas the partnership with the Rural Unit for Health and Social Affairs (RUHSA), a local civil societyorganization. The RUHSA began as a primary health care project, but evolved to support localcommunities in areas of agriculture, vocational training, and other social issues. Its role in the SHGprogram is to help women establish groups by supporting internal operations and facilitatingpartnerships with banks. The evaluation report indicates that as of October 2004, there were 362 SHGswith 7,238 members which surpassed the original target of 189 SHGs. The report notes that a key factorin the success of the SHG-RUHSA partnership was the emphasis on the “belief in womens abilities,rather than paternalistically targeting deficiencies” (2006). Important lessons can be drawn from this example. Designing an intervention that encouragesbottom-up solutions and forges strong partnerships are critical characteristics of a successful program.
  7. 7. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 7The people affected by the intervention can then continue to act as sustainable change agents withintheir community long after the project is finished.Program Objectives To strengthen women’s empowerment in Cameroon, program goals should focus on bothenhancing women’s ability to use credit to their greatest advantage and increasing women’s control ofhousehold finances. These objectives were chosen because they are the likely to most strongly affectwomen in the least amount of time. Changing national policies would take a long time, and waiting forproper enforcement of laws that will better protect women would take even longer. Furthermore, thesystems in which these policies are based are ultimately driven by culture within the rural communities.If the communities themselves can be transformed, it would go a long way in achieving greatereconomic equality for women. Therefore, the stated program goals are targeted at the communitylevel and address both women as well as men. To meet the program goals, one solution will focus onthe implementation and promotion of financial education tailored to women. The current lack offinancial education for women could be attributed to a number of causes. One is simply a lack of time.Attitudes within the community dictate that women’s roles should be confined to laborious agriculturalwork, cooking for the family, and caring for the children, none of which reap large economic returns.Women work long hours just to make ends meet, having little time for outside training. Secondly,cultural norms do not value women as equal partners with their husbands in contributing to householdincome. Financial education is considered inappropriate for women who are economically subordinateto their husbands. This is especially true in the case of junior wives in polygamous households. Not onlyis a junior wife subordinate to her husband, but also to a senior wife who may have some marginalmeans of control or influence over household finances. Thirdly, the existence of numerous microfinanceinstitutions (MFIs) serving women may act as a front that women’s financial needs are being met withinthe community through various forms of credit. There may not be awareness at the community level
  8. 8. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 8that credit alone is often insufficient to empower women. Given these challenges, it makes sense thatsolutions should begin at the community level. In the general literature, financial education as a means to achieve financial behavior change hasreceived mixed reviews. Studies conducted in the United States and Great Britain do not indicate thatfinancial education necessarily leads to greater savings or budgeting, and financial education programsin a developing country context are relatively new. However, several financial education programs inthe last few years have shown positive results where microfinance clients started to budget moreeffectively and save more often after going through training. One example in particular is the GlobalFinancial Education Program in Bolivia and Sri Lanka, implemented by Microfinance Opportunities andFreedom from Hunger. The project designed and implemented, in association with local MFIs, curriculabased on savings, debt management, and budgeting. Their experience suggests that a successfulprogram is dependent on a curriculum developed with input from the participants themselves.According to the report, “Financial behaviors are fluid, ever-changing, influenced by both internal andexternal factors. It is risky to assume that financial education as a concept is ineffective when researchshows that the more financially literate the clients are, the better their financial decisions and overallfinancial well-being are compared to financially illiterate clients. This suggests that it is more useful tospend time assessing the factors that make financial education most effective: to whom to deliver it,when, how often, and with which financial concepts and design—and in connection with which financialinstruments” (Gray et al, 2005). Implementing a financial education program in Cameroon is both realistic and has a high chanceof success. The fact that established MFIs already exist is a key asset. Presumably, these institutionsalready know a lot about their clients. They probably also have the capacity to conduct extensivemarket research to determine exactly how satisfied women are with the loan products they use and
  9. 9. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 9what their challenges are. These institutions would also be natural allies in promoting financialeducation among women. If women are better equipped to budget, save, and manage debt, they willbe more likely to both pay back loans and potentially borrow bigger amounts in the future. Any financialeducation program should actively engage MFIs from the beginning. Additionally, Cameroonian cultureis highly communal and cooperative. A large number of women are already comfortable obtainingfinancial services from MFIs. If the financial education program is closely associated with theseinstitutions, or perhaps serves as a prerequisite for borrowing certain amounts of money, women maybe more likely to participate in the program, despite their busy schedules. Identifying women in thecommunity who already wield influence to become first adopters in the program will critical inpersuading other women that the program can help them too. While a solution that includes strengthening human capital through skills building is criticallyimportant, a solution that includes building social capital (community networks and strength ofsupports) is equally important in addressing what Sen calls “capability poverty” (1999). These twosolutions are inextricably linked; relieving income poverty without addressing capability poverty will notlead to effective female economic empowerment. In other words, women’s financial savvy does her nogood if she is restricted to the use of her own financial assets. Increasing women’s control overhousehold finances is fundamentally about gender power relations. Therefore, it is important tounderstand what is meant by both “power” and “empowerment” in the context of gender relations.According to Kabeer, “Power can be conceptualized in terms of people’s capacity to make strategic lifechoices and exercise influence. Empowerment then refers to the processes by which this capacity isacquired by those who have been hitherto denied it” (2010). The author also identifies three conceptsrelated to empowerment: the power within, involving how women view themselves; the power to, orthe behavior dimension reflecting women’s increased ability make strategic choices and exerciseinfluence; and the power with, related to women coming together to reflect, to question and to act on
  10. 10. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 10their subordinate status. Kabeer also recognizes the importance of male attitudes: “men’s attitudes andbehaviour towards women in the different spheres of their lives will be critical to the kinds of changewomen are able to achieve. And men’s willingness to ally themselves with women in their struggles forgender justice will provide a powerful reinforcement of the momentum for change” (2010). The firstsolution discussed in the paper, providing financial education, speaks to the power to aspect of Kabeer’sanalysis of female empowerment. Equipping women with knowledge and tangible skills will betterenable them to make strategic life choices. A second solution must then relate to both the power withinand the power with aspects. Women themselves must be convinced of their own potential to contributeto household income and recognize the community support networks available to them to achieve theirgoals. Of course, a solution to solve this problem must not involve women alone. Men must also bepersuaded to see their wives as partners in joint economic success. A solution that appeals to themutual desire of both men and women to earn more money and provide for their families is a logicalstarting point. This can be done through the promotion of community dialogue about householdeconomic strengthening in the form of social events that both men and women can attend. Theseevents will give men and women the chance to speak more freely about financial issues. Regular andopen dialogue about control over finances will be important to breaking down unequal powerstructures. This is another opportunity to identify individuals who demonstrate “positive deviance.”These individuals could be men who let their wives participate equally in financial decision making orwomen who have successfully started home-based enterprises that afford them a greater level ofeconomic security. These individuals should be singled out as examples and encouraged to promotesimilar behavior among their peers. Once a tipping point is reached where men begin to understand thebenefits of allowing women to share responsibility of household finances, a significant shift in attitudestoward women in the community will be possible and empowerment can be fulfilled.
  11. 11. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 11Program Design The following women’s economic empowerment strategy will focus on two objectives in ruralcommunities in Cameroon: provide financial education tailored to women and change men’s attitudestoward seeing women as equal partners in economic success. The former will equip women with skillsto manage money better and build their confidence in reaching their own economic objectives. Thelatter will help give women more control over household income so they can use their new skills andallow them a greater voice in their own and their children’s futures. Formative research has shown thatwomen in Cameroon already have some resources available to them. The female community is welldisposed to pooling their resources and making group decisions, a behavior that should be encouragedto continue. In addition, there are already a number of microfinance institutions offering small loans towomen. These existing institutions should play a central role in the following strategy, because it is intheir interest to better understand the needs of their main clients, and their buy-in will help make theintervention more sustainable. An important part of any project design is sustainability. When localresources become part of the solution, results are more likely to continue long after the project has left.Financial Education Training Implementing a financial education program for women will take a participatory approach.Educational programs will not be useful to women if the curriculum is not responsive to their needs. Aparticipatory approach was considered a key to success by the Global Financial Education Program inBolivia and Sri Lanka, implemented by Microfinance Opportunities and Freedom from Hunger (Gray etal, 2005). The first step in this part of the strategy will be to convene a focus group among as manywomen in the community that are willing to participate. A focus group would be the most efficient wayto collect information from a larger group, rather than conducting individual interviews. A focus groupcould also help to reinforce shared challenges that the women face and build solidarity in changing theirown situations. A facilitator, hired by the project and with a background in financial services, will lead a
  12. 12. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 12discussion to assess exactly what the women say are the biggest barriers to sustained economic stability,or the ability to make enough money so as to not be completely dependent on loans to survive.Discussion should consider various areas of intervention, including savings plans, debt management,budgets, knowledge of credit options and business services available to women. Beyond assessingwomen’s financial savvy, the facilitator should also ask women about their level of control overhousehold income, whether their husbands would allow them to go to trainings, where the womenwould feel most comfortable meeting, and what times would be most appropriate to hold trainings. The information collected from this focus group should directly inform curriculum design, but itshould also be anticipated that not all the women’s problems might be able to be solved immediatelythrough the education program. If some women cannot find the time to come to trainings or if somewomen’s husbands will not allow them to participate, the entire program design should not hinge ontheir ability to participate right away. As the initial group of women goes through the program, they canbe used as examples of the benefits that can be gained. As first adopters, these women can act asadvocates among their female friends that the program is worth the time. Also, as men’s attitudes startto change as a result of the second part of the intervention, more husbands will likely become morecomfortable letting their wives come to trainings. As the education program starts to produce results inthe beginning, it is anticipated that larger numbers of women will participate. In planning the curriculum, strong attempts should be made to create partnerships between theproject and the local microfinance institutions (MFIs). MFIs would make natural partners in thisintervention because they have an interest in women becoming more financially stable. If women getbetter at saving and budgeting, they will be more likely to pay back their loans. If they are able to makemore income in the future, they might also be interested in taking out larger loans. This is also anopportunity for the MFIs to raise awareness among the women of all the services available to them,perhaps beyond just providing credit. They might also learn to better understand their client needs and
  13. 13. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 13adapt their current services to meet new challenges. MFI employees could make strong trainers whowould lead the classes. Presumably, these employees best understand the services available and thelocal conditions. It would also make sense for the trainings to be held in their buildings. Creating astrong connection between the MFIs and the trainings gives MFIs credibility and ensures that trainingscan continue into the future. In this scenario, the project may need to implement a train the trainersactivity to make sure MFI employees are well equipped to teach the curriculum. Providing public recognition upon completion of the program is another key component to thisstrategy. As a class of women completes the educational program, a celebration will be held andcertificates will be awarded. A celebration doesn’t have to be extravagant, but a public recognition ofthe women’s achievement is important to reinforce the value of women’s education. It may also be anopportunity to display the real benefits of the program and entice other women to participate. Givingout certificates serves to validate achievement and build confidence among the female students.Fostering healthy competition to adopt a positive behavior has been shown to be highly effective acrossa number of programs in many different technical areas.“Community Improvement” Dialogues The second part of the strategy will involve holding public lunches after weekly communityevents, such as going to church, to provide the space for fostering dialogue around families’ economicchallenges and goals. Although the focus of this part of the strategy is on changing men’s attitudes, it’simportant that women are present in the conversation to show that they have ideas to offer and tofoster equality and respect. However, it’s unlikely that if men are told they should stay after church totalk to their wives about economic problems that they will show up. To overcome this barrier, thesegatherings will be branded as “Community Improvement” or “Community Strengthening” meetings.The name should evoke an initiative that benefits the whole community and may appeal to men’s senseof duty. A recognized community leader should be encouraged to open the gathering with a speech
  14. 14. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 14about the importance of all members taking responsibility to provide for their families. Small tablesshould be arranged so that three to four families are eating together, which will provide the bestarrangement for group discussion. After the opening speech is given, community members who haveachieved notable economic accomplishments should be recognized, such as starting a new job,beginning a new business, making a new investment, receiving a loan, or industry recognition, etc.Providing another opportunity for public acknowledgement of economic achievement – for both menand women – will reinforce the message that women can contribute economically on an equal level withmen. After this part of the meeting is over, the leader should direct families to share their goals witheach other, and then identify how they want to achieve them. Project staff should be strategicallyplaced at the tables to help facilitate this discussion. It’s important that the leader is seen to sanctionthe gathering, but project staff will be needed to help keep conversation on track. It is anticipated thatby having different families interact with each other regarding financial decisions and objectives, menwill start to see how their wives can help them reach their goals. This activity also starts to create ahabit of making economic decisions as a family instead of the husband deciding for himself. Since otherfamilies in the community witness the public statement of economic goals, individual families can beheld more accountable. For example, a husband may be less likely to state in front of other families thathis real economic objective is to buy a television if his family can’t afford to send his children to school. The description of the above activity describes the goal to be achieved, but it should not beexpected that all will go as planned from the outset. A number of potential challenges have to be takeninto consideration. At the start of implementation, buy-in might be weak. Gender roles are usually verystrongly entrenched, so the likelihood that females will be able to participate equally in conversationsmight be too optimistic. Even in public gatherings, there is the potential that the community maysplinter along existing social lines. Junior wives may be even more vulnerable to isolation. Thesepotential challenges underline the importance of the role of project staff during these gatherings. A
  15. 15. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 15highly trained staffer should know how to diplomatically bring people into the conversation andencourage respect of everyone at the table. In a more extreme scenario, cultural tradition may dictatethat it is unacceptable for all members of the family to eat together. One approach that could possiblyovercome the challenge is to arrange assigned seating for each family at different tables. Providingmore structure in the arrangement of the space could prevent attendees from isolating particularpeople. Finally, it might also be the case that discussing family finances in public is not consideredappropriate. In some communities, even in the U.S., family finances are a private matter. However,formative research seems to indicate that Cameroonian culture tends to be more communal, andtherefore people might not feel uncomfortable discussing these issues publicly. Also, by branding themeetings as an activity that will benefit the entire community, hopefully attendees will make theconnection between household economic stability and community stability.Expected Timeline The first and second activities described in this strategy should be implemented simultaneously.The focus group with women should be the first step and will guide the implementation of the rest ofthe project. Information gathered from these meetings should also indicate how deep gendersegregation is embedded in the community and predict the kinds of challenges the project will likelyface. If not enough women can meet for one focus group, multiple groups may need to be convened atdifferent times. Completing this part of the project should take about two weeks. There will then be alot of work to win over key stakeholders in the community who will be integral in making the project asuccess. Outreach to local MFIs should start early, and multiple meetings should be held withcommunity leaders to win their support. When their participation has been secured, the logistics ofplanning the educational program and community gatherings can begin. The length of time it takes toput these pieces together may vary widely, depending on how difficult it is to get stakeholder supportand secure necessary resources. A reasonable estimate would be four to five months. Once classes
  16. 16. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 16begin for women, community gatherings can also take place. The two activities should act to reinforceone another. At this time, baseline indicators should be recorded. Each class should not extend for toolong; otherwise retention may be low. Six week courses would be enough to cover a variety of topicswhile also demonstrating progress and success fairly quickly. If initial courses are successful, higher levelcourses may be considered for those women who want to learn more. After three rounds of courses, amidpoint evaluation should be done against the established indicators for both the education programsand the gatherings. Any necessary adjustments should be made based on the results of the midpointevaluation. Once courses have begun, this part of the intervention would extend over nine months (atotal of six rounds of courses altogether). At the end of nine months, a final evaluation should be doneand the level of impact should be assessed in a final report.Monitoring and Evaluation This strategy aims at reaching two objectives in rural communities in Cameroon: decreasewomen’s dependency on loans and change men’s attitudes toward seeing women as equal partners ineconomic success. The former objective will be achieved by equipping women with skills to managemoney better and build their confidence in reaching their own economic objectives. The latter will helpgive women more control over household income so they can use their new skills and allow them agreater voice in their own and their children’s futures. The first objective is primarily about increasingknowledge, and the second objective aims to change attitudes. I expect both will lead to changes inbehavior. My argument is that increasing the financial knowledge of women will cause them to be ableto save more money, pay back loans more frequently, and ultimately, increase their household incomes.Changing men’s attitudes toward women’s equal role in financial planning will cause women to havemore control over household assets, spend more money on health and education, and achieveincreased financial independence. The proposed interventions I previously outlined will measure boththe immediate impact of the interventions on the communications objectives. This will be done with
  17. 17. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 17the use of periodic monitoring and a pre, midpoint, and post-evaluation. To measure the programobjectives, or changes in behavior, a 12-month follow-up evaluation will also be conducted. There are a number of factors outside the intervention that might influence behavior changeoutcomes. In terms of increasing income, the same objective could be achieved under certainconditions without an increase in a woman’s financial skills. Favorable weather conditions couldcontribute to a better harvest, which would certainly increase household income. A woman’s husbandmay be able to get a higher paying job, which would allow savings to increase. Additionally, othercircumstances may also contribute to women being able to make more financial decisions regardless ofwhether her husband attended the community meetings proposed in the intervention. If a woman’shusband becomes very ill, has to travel, or is otherwise absent from the house for some reason, the wifemay naturally have to fill the role of head of household. If a family begins to spend more on health andeducation for the children, this might be attributed to the wife’s influence. A government policy changemay incentivize spending on health and education or some other influence outside the family may haveprompted the decision. Given all these alternative explanations, the 12-month follow-up evaluationmust include questions that prompt a woman to explain why any changes in the household have takenplace. The final evaluation should also include a report noting any system level changes in thecommunity which might have an effect on the economic situation of families living there. This level ofdetail will strengthen the argument that any positive changes in the community were, in fact, caused bythe interventions. To assess the program objectives, this project will use a quasi-experimental design. In the 12-month follow-up, women will be asked to describe their financial activities over the last year, how muchincome her family makes, and her level of control over finances in the home. Those who did notparticipate in the intervention, either women who did not attend the trainings or whose husbands did
  18. 18. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 18not attend the meetings, will serve as the control group. Those who did participate in the programactivities will serve as the treatment group. It might be the case that a woman did attend training, buther husband did not attend the community meetings regularly. Under these circumstances, results willneed to be presented in way that takes this history into account. Hopefully the report will be nuancedenough that positive changes in her household could be attributed to the financial trainings and not thecommunity meetings. Given the limited number of women in the community and the difficulties ofgetting a large number of them to respond, this design will not use random assignment. Women will begiven the choice to participate in the evaluation or not. Only the responses from those women whoagree to participate will be included in the final results. To evaluate the communications objectives, a pretest/posttest design with no control group willbe used. A midpoint evaluation will also be conducted to allow for any necessary adjustments in theactivities to make them more effective. In the financial trainings, only those who attend the trainingswill be evaluated. The design will be interested in measuring whether women have more financialknowledge after the training compared to when they started. The same is true for the communitymeetings. A pretest will be conducted among men to determine their initial attitudes toward theirwives and financial planning. After several months, a midpoint survey will be taken, and finally, aposttest will be conducted to see whether or not their attitudes have changed in a positive direction. Inthe case of the community meetings, the use of some qualitative data may be particularly useful.Detailed descriptions of men’s body language, tone during discussions, and how often they contribute toa conversation, would all be useful information that could point to changes in attitude. A monitoring plan for both the financial training sessions and the community meetings shouldbe relatively simple to implement. At the beginning of each session of the training, the number ofwomen in attendance should be recorded. Over time, it is anticipated that the number of women who
  19. 19. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 19want to attend the trainings should grow. It is also anticipated that those women who attend the mostsessions will also gain the most knowledge. A similar approach should be taken for the communitymeetings. The names of everyone present at the meetings should be recorded. This information canthen be taken into account later to determine whether those men and women who attended the mostmeetings also saw a greater amount of equality in the home. The pretest and posttest method for the financial trainings will use a short exam based on thedetermined learning objectives of the trainings. Examples of topics might be savings methods, budgetstrategies, credit options, local service providers, and interest rates. The same exam should be givenboth at the start of the training and the end of all the sessions. Using the same questions will the mosteffective way to measure change in knowledge. The midpoint evaluation will be given after three fullsessions, at which point the students will be given the exam that includes questions on only the materialcovered up to that point. The results of these exams should be assessed quickly so that, if needed,training can be adapted to achieve better outcomes. For the community meetings, a survey will beconducted, perhaps in the form of a group discussion where each man in the group is prompted toanswer a series of questions, to gauge their current attitude toward their wives. Indicators wouldinclude level of agreement with the following statements (representative sample):I want to make more money so my wife can Strongly agree Strongly disagreework less. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7I want to make more money so that my children Strongly agree Strongly disagreewill be better educated. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7A man’s wife should know how much the family Strongly agree Strongly disagreemakes. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7It would be beneficial for a man’s wife to have Strongly agree Strongly disagreeher own business. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7Spending on health and education is important Strongly agree Strongly disagreefor my family’s reputation. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7It is beneficial for a man’s wife to be educated. Strongly agree Strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
  20. 20. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 20It is beneficial for a man’s wife to seek a loan. Strongly agree Strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7It is beneficial to include my wife in financial Strongly agree Strongly disagreedecisions. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7A qualitative report might also be conducted after the first two or three meetings. After three months,the same questions should be posed again. At the end of six months, a post survey, ideally with thesame men, should be conducted and a post activity qualitative report could also be included. After the initial six-month evaluation, a final evaluation should be conducted after another sixmonths in order to measure any behavior changes. In this approach, as many women in the communitywho are willing to participate should be surveyed. It should be determined whether or not the womanattended any training sessions and whether or not her and her husband attended the communitymeetings. Two separate surveys should be conducted, one to assess financial confidence and increasesin income/savings and the other to assess the level of cooperation with the woman’s husband overfinancial resources. Questions in the survey would include (representative sample):SURVEY 1  In the last year, how much income did your family make? In the previous year?  In the last year, were you able to save money, and if so, how much?  In the last year, did you make any significant purchases? In the previous year?  In the last year, did you take out any loans, and if so, did you pay them back on time?  In the last year, how often did you seek a loan?  In the last year, do you feel you could survive without seeking a loan? In the previous year?  How comfortable would you feel managing the family’s budget?SURVEY 2  In the past year, how many times has your husband consulted you before making purchases?  What are your spending priorities?  Who has an influence on your spending priorities?  In the past year, how often has your husband been absent from the home?  Does your husband know your spending priorities, and if so, does he agree with you?
  21. 21. Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cameroon 21  In the last year, how often has your family discussed financial decisions?  In the last year, have you made a purchase without asking your husband?Women taking both questionnaires would choose from a set list of responses, each of which would beweighted with the more positive behavior receiving a higher number. At the end, survey responseswould be tallied and each would receive a score. A higher score would indicate a stronger positivebehavior change on both questionnaires. A low score would indicate a lack of behavior change. Thesescores would then be correlated with those who did and did not participate in the respective activitiesto try to determine a causal relationship. Although the survey questions should be designed to take intoaccount other possible influences on behavior change, the final report should also include a descriptionof other notable changes in the community over the past year which might have had an influence. Ultimately, the success of the project will be based on evidence of positive behavior changeassociated with those who participated in the project activities. In other words, women who attendedmore training sessions will do better on the exam and score higher on Survey 1. Husbands whoattended the most meetings would have a greater positive change in attitude toward their wives, andthe same wives would score higher on Survey 2.
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