|The Impact of Training on Women's Micro-Enterprise Development - Education Research Paper No. 40 (DFID, 2001, 139 p.)|
|Chapter 2: Review of the Literature|
Of the few studies that exist which look specifically at training for women working in the informal sector, worth mentioning is Goodale's (1989) work for the ILO and Leach in a DFID funded study by McGrath et al (1995). Other writings - some of which is case study material - are Iyer (1991), Walsh and Nelson (1991), Jumani (1989), Wadehra (1991) and Awori (1995). The UNIFEM study reported by Creevey (1996) examines training as one of a number of inputs on women's micro-enterprise projects.
Goodale (1989) has argued that the increasing interest in training for the informal sector during the 1980s failed to recognise the involvement of women, and therefore to develop programmes and strategies which distinguish between women and men as economic producers. The failure to recognise that women and men engage in different economic activities in different sets of circumstances and therefore have different training needs has resulted in 'a relatively male-biased delineation of both skill acquisition and work in the informal sector, in which women are largely invisible' (Goodale 1989 p 1). Even where training has been targeted at women, it has often been inappropriate and ineffective because it has not sought to provide them with the means to make a viable income which would lift them out of poverty. She lists examples of this:
· agencies providing training to women (primarily NGOs) have not pursued it in a context of training for existing or potential market opportunities geared to the circumstances of women's lives
· they have failed to provide training in business skills alongside vocational/technical skills because women's economic activities were seen as 'projects' not as 'enterprises' 6
· such projects have largely been run by generalist and volunteer community development workers with limited technical and managerial skills to impart and limited knowledge of local markets and market dynamics. Little consideration has been given to the feasibility of the productive activity, the quality of products and market opportunities.
· women have been given limited awareness of alternatives to traditional female occupations and their perception of their own employment potential has been extremely narrow. Training has usually been provided in areas such as sewing, embroidery, cooked foods and vegetable gardening, all low-profit, labour-intensive activities which lead to over-supply and can never help women out of poverty.
6 Buvinic (1986) is particularly critical of the 'welfare project' approach to women's income generation in her article entitled 'Projects for women in the third world: explaining their misbehavior' World Development, 14,5, pp 653-664
Awori (1995) looks at a range of training issues around women's micro-enterprises in Africa and divides training needs into three categories: training for low-income women, for women who are already entrepreneurs, and for trainers. She suggests that programme experience shows that low-income women need training in three areas: business skills, technical skills and what she calls 'counselling in family life education' which covers nutrition, child care, family planning as well as leadership training and group maintenance (p 231). If these three strands are not offered together, or if technical inputs alone are provided, the training will not be effective. In particular, she argues that a gender awareness, value-oriented, empowerment component is crucial. Our own research confirms this finding, although we would argue that the focus of the third category of training should be on gender awareness raising and confidence-building rather than on women's reproductive role.
Alongside their lower levels of education and training, women are also disadvantaged comparative to men by their relative lack of access to information (about markets, credit etc), to new technology (despite evidence that they are both users and innovators, Appleton 1995), and to networks between entrepreneurs which allow informal flows of often privileged information. The importance of privileged networks was made very clear in the Indian case study (chapter 5). Programmes which promote information about training and employment opportunities are usually not accessible to women, e.g. through business associations and placement services, business pages of newspapers and radio programmes which are broadcast at times when women cannot listen to them, or advertised at places women do not frequent (Goodale 1989, p 12).
In addition, the objectives of training for women have often been poorly thought out and uncoordinated. One example is provided by Rogers (1994) who found that women's projects often failed to bring education/training and production together. From his experience many women's projects provide multiple inputs, of which one might be literacy and another income generation. He found that rarely did the one build on the other, so that learners were not encouraged to use their literacy skills practically to advance their economic activities and to increase control over their own affairs. For example, he found that the vocabulary of primers did not cover words used in economic activities, women were not encouraged to write down their financial transactions but merely to memorise them, and often the accounts of credit groups were kept by a literacy instructor or a NGO official and not by the women themselves.
More generally, it can be said that there has been a lack of gender awareness among those involved in designing and delivering training opportunities for women. As a result, the constraints operating on women in the private as well as the public (social, economic and political) spheres because of their sex have not been recognised and addressed through the training. Such constraints which define and limit women's choices in life include: lack of mobility, either for cultural or domestic reasons (child care); lack of power in the household, whether power over decision-making, resources, child bearing or the woman's own income; conflicting pressures between her triple roles (productive, reproductive, community); lack of collateral (property or land) with which to obtain credit; discriminatory labour legislation (e.g. on pay levels, on women working in certain occupations, or at night); limited access to justice and political power (e.g. for lobbying or representation, for redress against sexual violence and abuse). While men may also face constraints when seeking education, employment, credit or legal representation, particularly if they are poor, the constraints that women face are additional to those faced by men. Training programmes for women have at best addressed their practical needs (earning a living to guarantee survival) but have in most cases ignored their strategic needs, which require tackling the underlying causes of women's subordination to men (Moser 1991).
The UNIFEM funded study reported by Creevey (1996) examined a range of inputs which have a potential impact on women's micro-enterprises, one of which was training. The purpose of the study was to find out whether the impact on eight women's micro-enterprise projects differed depending on whether the project intervened comprehensively or simply, that is by providing multi-faceted support such as training in technology use, business skills, self-awareness or group organisation, or simply offering instead a single type of assistance such as access to credit or a new or improved technology. The study also sought to examine the role of mobilisation in projects for women, i.e. training of women in group organisation and management, self-awareness and empowerment to assist them to take charge of their lives. Some argue that as women succeed in business they naturally become empowered, others argue that in very conservative and restricted environments mobilisation can make them successful and more effective. The study found that the combination of new or modified technology, training and credit appeared to have a significant impact on women's income levels and quality of life (and that of their families). The link between mobilisation and increased income was less clear. This can probably be explained by the fact that mobilisation works towards longer-term goals of empowerment and does not necessarily provide resources in the short-term which can contribute to raising income levels. Nevertheless, there is a large body of literature, outside that relating to skills training, which argues that poor women in particular need awareness raising if they are to overcome the barriers that face them when they enter the public arena, which is dominated by men, e.g. Moser (1993), Longwe (1998), Williams (1994) and Parker (1993).7 Our study found clear benefits of such awareness building components for women's perception of themselves as potential businesswomen.
7 The latter two are gender training manuals.
However, the study reported on by Creevey was unable to draw firm conclusions about training as an effective strategy because it did not distinguish which kinds, or amounts, of training the women received, nor what their initial skill level was. Nevertheless, it did find that the women who had received training were far more likely to perceive high project impacts than those who had not had training. 71 percent of those who had been trained in the sample said they had higher incomes as against 48 percent of the untrained women (Creevey, 1996, p 203). The intention in our own study was to close this gap in knowledge about what type(s) of training can have an impact on women's micro-enterprises.
Within the broader literature of training for micro-enterprise and SME development, there is also a concern that training has been ineffective. The Working Group on Business Development Services set up for the Donor Committee on Small Enterprise Development (funded by a number of bilateral and multilateral agencies) reports on training as one type of service, others being counselling and advice 8, information provision, technology development and transfer, and business linkages. It points out that 'until the microfinance revolution, [training] was probably the most prominent instrument used in SME development' (Gibson, 1997, p 29). It identifies the main problems with early training interventions as having been:
· too generalised relying on relatively standardised material
· too supply-driven with impractical subject matter far removed from SME realities
· delivered in an inappropriate top-down teaching style
· delivered by ill-qualified people
· insufficiently aware of cost control
· insufficiently aware of the need to encourage trainee commitment to learning
· insufficiently concerned with follow-up in situ.
(Gibson 1997, p 29)
8 In our study, this is considered as informal training.
In passing, we should note that if the above analysis was gender sensitive, it would have added to the list 'insufficiently aware of the different training needs of women and men'. It is however typical of much of the literature around SME, self-employment and the informal sector, in perpetuating the invisibility of women.
Harper (1989) is particularly damning of attempts to provide business advice and training through credit organisations and entrepreneurial development programmes, often for those who have never set up in business before. Such advice and training can never be specific to the context within which the entrepreneur is working or facilitate access to privileged sources of information on which successful businesses so often depend. He argues that the only real bottleneck in micro-enterprise development is lack of credit, and that if training is to be provided it should be given to government officials so that they can learn to be more tolerant of the informal sector! He does however concede that the very poorest and most disadvantaged are unlikely to benefit from credit alone and may well need technical (rather than business) skills training. Indeed, our study confirmed that the poor are in need of training, but our evidence suggests that business rather than technical skills are the most useful and effective (when appropriately taught).
Research studies in the area of what is typically referred to as 'small and medium enterprises' or (SME) - as opposed to micro-enterprises - are not usually concerned with the smallest enterprises, usually those of the poorest, and so not surprisingly they address men's rather than women's needs. Examples are Afenyadu et al (1999) Learning to Compete, Kent and Mushi (1995) Education and Training of Artisans for the Informal Sector in Tanzania, and McGrath et al (1995) Education and Training for the Informal Sector (all funded by DFID Education Division). Other relevant works are King and McGrath (1999), Grierson (1997) and Grierson and Mackenzie (1998). Despite in some cases recognising that women have smaller businesses than men, are under-represented in vocational training and are discriminated against in the labour market (e.g. Kent and Mushi), these studies fail to engage in any gender analysis as to why this is so, and hence fail to provide recommendations that would actually address the situation (which is one of power relations). Symptomatic of this is the failure to provide sex disaggregated data (which of course may not be readily available at the country level but could easily be part of the research itself); without such data, there cannot be adequate recognition of the full extent of discrimination against women in education, training, and employment, nor can appropriate strategies be developed. This is despite the fact that women often make up half of those working in the informal sector and sometimes more.
The recent and large scale three year study by Afenyadu et al (1999) for DFID of 'learning-led competitiveness' provides a good example of this. This study sought to extend our understanding of the role that education and training plays in developing competitive enterprises in three African countries. However, women do not feature in this competitive world except in passing, although ironically some of the constraints which the authors identify are in fact gender-specific. Unfortunately, they fail to recognise them as such. For example, they speak disapprovingly of entrepreneurs who see their SMEs:
as having the primary function of providing income that can then be invested in other household activities and strategies such as education for children and land acquisition. This non-entrepreneurial outlook... reduces the likely profitability and growth of enterprises and, if not taken into account, can lead to reduced effectiveness of interventions. (p ix)
Those who channel income from the enterprise into the household are most likely to be women, while men might channel it into land (or into their own 'luxuries' such as cigarettes or alcohol). At the same time, the pressures on women to provide for their families are likely to be much greater and more continuous than those on men, as in many cases (as our research shows) they are solely responsible for feeding themselves and their children. Addressing these gender-specific constraints requires an understanding and an examination of the gendered structure not only of the market but also of the household, the state and the community, all of which are institutions which impact on women and men differently (Kabeer, 1994). Without this, the chances of developing strategies which will support the development of competitive enterprises among the developing world's many women entrepreneurs are limited.
One exception to the lack of gender sensitivity in the literature is Bennell (1999a), whose study for ILO on skills development among the economically vulnerable and socially excluded does, by nature of its topic, consider women's circumstances and needs explicitly. He cites Moser who points out that most formal training for women has been closely related to gender-stereotyped tasks and occupations and in this respect it is itself part of 'deep-seated, culturally sanctioned forms of gender inequality' (p 25). Bennell continues:
A common criticism of public sector training for the poor is that, at least up until fairly recently, it has been largely 'gender blind' which is part of a wider problem of mainly male policymakers simply 'not seeing' women. Without a strong, theoretically well grounded gender perspective, training programmes have failed to address the invisibility of women in the informal sector. (p 32)
This study by Bennell highlights the unhealthy division in development agencies between programmes which are intended to stimulate economic growth and therefore address those sectors of the population that are valuable economically (owners of medium or large enterprises, skilled labour etc) and those which are intended to alleviate the plight of the poor (social development programmes, e.g. in healthcare, sanitation, housing and small-scale income generation) and which target the disadvantaged and the marginalised. Women are to be found disproportionately in this latter category, not surprisingly given that two-thirds of the world's poor are estimated to be women. Despite the fact that the literature around SME is frequently located in a pro-poor or poverty alleviation perspective, it is actually concerned with enterprises which are significantly larger and more stable than those run by the very poor, and by women in particular. Interventions around training for SME in fact target the 'not so poor', these being disproportionately men, and are informed by an economic discourse of production, growth and competitiveness. On the other hand, training interventions funded by social development programmes target women disproportionately (and are informed by a social science discourse). By dealing with these two sets of interventions, and the research that informs them, separately (usually through different departments), development agencies will continue to exclude the very poor, and women, from strategies for economic growth (including SME promotion). They will therefore ensure that they remain poor and marginalised.