Empowering the disabled through savings groups

By Ingeborg Korme

26 March 2018 10:00

Empowering the disabled through savings groups

Professors Kjetil Bjorvatn and Bertil Tungodden have a new working paper "Empowering the disabled through savings groups: Experimental evidence from Uganda".

Empowering the disabled through savings groups

In the working paper "Empowering the disabled through savings groups: Experimental evidence from Uganda" Bjorvatn and Tungodden explore the effect of a village savings- and loans program in rural Uganda targeting people with disabilities. 

People with disabilities generally have poorer health, lover educational achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. The World Report on Disability (2011) argues that (page xi) “we must empower people living with disabilities and remove the barriers which prevent them from participating in their communities”, and points to access to finance as one such barrier. While microfinance programs in principle are open to all, few people with disabilities benefit from such schemes. 

We can manage

Bjorvatn and Tungodden analyse the impact of the village savings- and loans program (VSLA) "We Can Manage" run by the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) and is supported by The Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD). The program organizes members into groups of 30 and the groups meet on a weekly basis, pool their savings, lend to each other based on demand, ability to repay, and need, and contribute to an emergency fund.

They conducted a baseline survey during the summer of 2013, and interviewed 1908 participants from 75 groups, which were formed according to the criteria of NUDIPU, but which were yet to be initiated through training and technical assistance. After the baseline, these groups were randomly assigned into treatment and control groups, and they used a staggered randomized controlled design. The treatment groups were initiated during late 2013/early 2014, while the control groups were initiated after the final data collection in 2016. 

Positive impact on lives

The main finding is that the intervention has had a significant positive impact on the lives of the disabled participants. Compared to the control group, the disabled members of the program report having stronger income growth, increased consumption, and higher levels of general wellbeing and happiness, with improvements being more marked for male than for female participants. There is also evidence suggesting that the main mechanisms driving these positive changes are higher levels of savings and investment in agricultural land, as well as a strengthening of locus of control. 

Read the working paper

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