|The Impact of Training on Women's Micro-Enterprise Development - Education Research Paper No. 40 (DFID, 2001, 139 p.)|
|Chapter 1: Introduction|
A total of 78 women were covered by the study (excluding the nine women interviewed once on the Sri Lanka project). Of these 78 women, 40 were in Group 1 and 38 in Group 2. The data provided by all these women were relevant and contributed to the findings. However, for the purpose of assessing the impact of the training on the women's micro-enterprises alongside that of credit, it was only possible to use a smaller sample of 57 women (see Appendix 5). This was because not all 78 women met the full criteria, namely that they were engaged in micro-enterprise activity throughout the research period, had received relevant training and were in receipt of credit at the time. The details are provided in the relevant case study chapters. We recognise that it is dangerous to make generalisations out of such a small sample and suggest that the indicative findings presented here should be tested in further larger studies.
As to the nature of the women's economic activities, most of the women in the Ethiopia and Peru samples were working in small-scale retailing, e.g. selling small household items, snacks and processed food from their house, from the street or from a market stall. Some in the Ethiopia sample were running small bars or canteens. Many of these were illegal activities, undertaken without formal licences. In Sudan a number were doing tailoring, and in Peru a small sample were part of a family bakery business. Many of the women were either illiterate or had minimal literacy skills (although many could do complex oral calculations). Few had had more than primary schooling, with the exception of Peru, where eight of the Group 1 women and seven of the Group 2 women had had some secondary schooling. In the Indian sample, only one woman in each group was literate (she was given the task of keeping the group's accounts). For the majority of those who were illiterate, this was their first experience of organised education or training of any kind.
A number of women in the sample were heads of household, either divorced, widowed or separated: there were seven in the Ethiopian sample of 20 women, and one each in India, Sudan and Peru. All the women were extremely poor, with daily net incomes among the Group 1 women at the start of the study ranging from the equivalent of 20-40 pence per day in India, £1-£4 in Sudan and Ethiopia, to £2.50-£12 in Peru. Even where income increases were recorded as a result of the training, these were also modest and did not usually increase by more than 25-50% over the research period. The only notable exceptions were one woman in the Ethiopian Group 1 sample and two in the Peru sample (one in Group 1 and one in Group 2, both working in fruit processing), with two of the three trebling their incomes over a sustained period. However, the low increases for the majority are deceptive in that some of the women's initiatives showed considerable promise in the longer term and the field work coincided in the latter stages with depressed markets in Ethiopia (economic recession and inflation), Sudan (low seasonal demand) and Peru (the impact of el Niño).
The poorest women are not seen as a 'natural' target for interventions in micro-enterprise development, their potential to become successful businesswomen being severely constrained by a wide range of economic and social factors. However, within a donor agenda of poverty alleviation, small gains among the very poorest must be considered as achievements.
The main findings of the four completed case studies are discussed in chapters 4-7. Each chapter will follow the same format: background information on the project/programme, an evaluative account of the training provided to the women in the Group 1 sample, profile of the women included in the study, detailed findings from the Group 1 sample and brief details of the Group 2 findings.