|The Impact of Training on Women's Micro-enterprise Development - Education research paper No. 40 (DFID, 2001, 139 p.)|
The Impact of Training on Women's Micro-Enterprise Development
This report presents the main findings and recommendations of an investigation into the impact of training on women's micro-enterprise development conducted during 1997-8 and funded by DFID (Education Division and ESCOR). The research was carried out into four programmes (in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Sudan) supported by two UK based NGOs, namely ACORD and Intermediate Technology. The study examined the contribution that training makes to the development of women's micro-enterprises, in particular in relation to credit. The impact of training was measured against four indicators: income, access and control of resources, status, and quality of life. The study also examined the training process to find out in what specific ways training had helped women to improve and expand their micro-enterprises. Both formal (organised groups of trainees taught by a trainer) and informal training (one-to-one training or advice, often 'on the job') were covered by the study.
The context for this study was one of declining importance attached by development agencies to training for poor women, with some programmes abandoning training in favour of micro-finance, which became the dominant poverty alleviation strategy from the late 1980s onwards. The aim of the study was to show that training can have (and has had) a positive impact on both women's incomes and their status, especially when combined with micro-credit.
The study clearly shows that poor women need training to develop skills and self-confidence to allow them to operate and to survive in the informal sector. Access to credit is important but not sufficient for the poorest women. The projects studied revealed many examples of women who would have been unable to develop their businesses and increase their incomes without training, especially in basic business skills. However, the impact of training and of increased income on other aspects of their businesses and lives, namely access and control of resources, status, and quality of life, was not clear cut. Not only did the impact vary in strength but it could be negative as well as positive. The link between training and women's economic and social empowerment is therefore complex.
The study found that where the training was well designed and delivered it could lead to increased income, which in turn could lead to improved self-esteem and in some cases improved status in the household and the community. This was especially the case where the training had provided a gender analysis and confidence-building component. A particular benefit of the training where it was effectively delivered was that it developed enhanced survival strategies in women, so that they could cope better in times of crisis.
There was little evidence that formal training, even when delivered in a conventional classroom setting, was inappropriate for poor, often illiterate women. On the contrary, training provided to groups in a participatory mode was an empowering and liberating experience for women on both the Indian and Ethiopian projects, as it allowed for the sharing of ideas, information and experiences. This in turn helped develop both self-confidence and entrepreneurship. Informal training in the form of one-to-one business or technical advice was also effective when it addressed the woman's specific needs in the context of her business. Evidence of this was found on the Sudan programme (in business skills) and on the Peru project (in technical advice).
On balance, training in generic business skills appeared to be more effective than training in technical skills, which are more context-specific and not easily adapted to new circumstances (as was found on the Peru project). Moreover business skills for women, especially when these include skills to assist them to operate effectively in male-dominated markets, help develop a more positive attitude towards productive work and allow women to see what they were doing as a potential business.
In terms of policy recommendations for development agencies, the study suggests the need for greater recognition of the role of training in improving the economic and social status of poor women, improved quality in the design and delivery of training programmes, and more research and evaluation into what constitutes 'good practice' for dissemination to training providers and funders. It also suggests that the provision of 'follow-up' advice is an effective strategy to support women in the early stages of developing their micro-enterprises. Training for women also needs to be incorporated into the mainstream discourse of technical and vocational education and training, which is currently dominated by traditional male skill areas.