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Building Women’s Economic and Social Empowerment Through Enterprise: An experimental assessment of the Women’s Income Generating Support (WINGS) program in Uganda

2013 — By Chris Blattman, Eric Green, Jeannie Annan, Julian Jamison

Investing in women is said to be a key to development. Educate her, buy her a cow or goat, or help her start a business and great things will follow: sustained increases in income, greater empowerment and social inclusion, health and education for the children, and (especially in war-affected regions) mental health and happiness.

Testing whether this is true will take a great many studies and interventions. In this report we study the impacts of giving cash grants of approximately $150 and basic business skills training to the very poorest and most excluded women in a war-affected region, northern Uganda. The program was designed and implemented by an Italian non-governmental organization (NGO), AVSI Uganda, with decades of experience serving this population.

1800 poor young women (and some men) in 120 villages were randomly assigned to a first or second phase of the intervention, allowing us to assess the impacts after roughly 18 months. In each phase we also vary core program components—organizing women in some villages into groups, varying the degree of supervision and advising they receive, and varying the level of involvement of the husband.

This report provides provisional answers to these questions based on data collected from April 2009 to August 2012. The questions will continue to be explored and analyzed in academic papers in future, but we attempt to draw out the key findings and policy lessons as close to the end of the intervention and data collection as possible.