The Influence of Savings Group Membership on Rural Women’s Empowerment: A Case Study of Zombo District, Uganda
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Women’s Empowerment has become quite the “buzz term” in the development arena over the last six decades. Microfinance as a tool to increase women’s economic and social empowerment has registered mixed reports of being a ‘magic bullet’ as well as a ‘vicious constraint.’ Microfinance has several models, among which is the popular community-based savings-led model. The purpose of this research was to examine the effect of savings group membership on rural women’s empowerment in, Zombo district in Uganda. The study aimed to establish the relationship between vulnerable rural women’s involvement in savings and women empowerment. Specifically, the study sought to establish the relationship between vulnerable rural women’s involvement in savings groups and; i) asset ownership, ii) business ownership, iii) decision making in the household, and iv) participation in leadership. The case study of this research was Zombo district in North Western Uganda. The study involved Two hundred and fifty six (256) rural women. Data was collected using questionnaires, was processed and analyzed mainly using STATA 14. Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with selected women, key Informant Interviews (KIIs) with community Development Officers and SG chairpersons were also carried out coded and analyzed accordingly. The women were classified into; Savings group members (SG members) and SG non-members (SG Non-members) in order to draw comparison between the responses of those that were involved in Savings groups and those that were not members of any savings group. The analysis of the results was made using regressions and measures of central tendency such as Mean and Frequency. The findings of the study showed that savings group membership positively influences rural women’s asset ownership, business ownership, ability to make some household purchase decisions and leadership participation. It was further established that savings group membership significantly augments the likelihood of economic, social empowerment and overall empowerment of rural women. Policy makers and leaders in both government and non-governmental agencies involved in establishing savings groups should continue to target the most resource-poor such as vulnerable rural women. Further studies pertaining to the following could be conducted; the factors that influence the sustainability of savings groups, a comparative analysis of the performance of same-gender savings groups versus that of the mixed-gender savings groups, among others.