Case Study: The Women’s Protection and Empowerment (WPE) Program
This programme of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) works to empower women socially and economically through the EA$E (Economic and Social Empowerment) Program. The EA$E Program seeks to promote safer gender dynamics in the household by increasing women’s decision making in the home. It does this through three components of empowerment:
1) Access to financial services through VSLA. Using the model of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), groups of 15-30 women come together to save money collectively and contribute to a common fund. This common fund is then used to give small loans to individual members, which they pay back at a modest interest rate. Over time VSLAs contribute to women’s income and create a space of social and economic support.
2) Gender dialogues – Talking about Talking Discussion Series. Preliminary research has shown that adding space for gender dialogues – in addition to economic programs for women – can be helpful in reducing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). The EA$E Program facilitates an ongoing discussion series for VSLA members and their spouses. These dialogues focus on household finances and economic decision-making, while also incorporating deeper issues of power imbalance, women’s value in the home and alternatives to violence. These dialogues address underlying attitudes towards violence against women, decision-making and relationship dynamics that economic programs on their own do not address. At the same time, participants are able to address these topics in a non-threatening way by making the improvement of household well-being – rather than intimate partner violence – the main focus of these discussions.
3) Business training. VSLA members are trained in practical business skills that help them effectively use loans, explore profitable business opportunities, and expand small-scale business activities.
The EA$E program is operating in nine countries throughout Africa and conducts ongoing rigorous impact evaluations. Initial measures in the pilot program in Burundi showed that integrating the discussion series along with economic empowerment led to a decrease in IPV levels and acceptance of violence, and an increase in women’s involvement in decision-making and use of negotiation skills between spouses.
For more information, see:
International Rescue Committee (n.d.). Economic and Social Empowerment (EA$E) Program for Women. Brochure.
International Rescue Committee (n.d.). “Getting Down to Business: Women’s Social and Economic Empowerment in Burundi.” New York: IRC.