"We don't wait for things to be handed to us" : assessing the effectiveness of a self-help group approach in empowering women in KwaZulu-Natal.
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The need to empower women responds to the growing recognition that, especially in developing countries, many poor women lack control over resources and the self-confidence or opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. Women use various approaches and systems in order to survive, including self-help practices and kinship networks, informal moneylenders, rotating savings and credit associations, and accessing micro-finance. In South Africa, many rural women and their families would struggle to survive without the social security grants they receive from the government. This research, conducted with five Self-help Groups (SHGs) in rural KwaZulu-Natal, assesses the effectiveness of a Self-Help Group Approach in empowering poor women in rural communities of KwaZulu-Natal, socially and economically, by determining if the elements of resources, agency and achievements were evident within the groups. The main findings from the study suggest that there seems to be a positive relationship between SHG loans and government grants accessed with one complementing the other; and there was evidence, to varying degrees, to suggest that the determinants of empowerment existed in the SHGs involved in the study as well as within the wider SHG programme in KwaZulu-Natal. The study also highlights some weaknesses within the SHG approach that were identified.