Social Capital and Cooperation : An Impact Evaluation of Women's Empowerment Programme in Rural india
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This dissertation provides a quantitative impact evaluation of a community-based development project, the Mahila Samakhya programme in India. This is a women’s empowerment programme that mobilizes women from the lowest castes and poorest families to set up women groups in their village. With support from the programme, they are encouraged to identify their most urgent needs and find solutions to jointly address them. Community-based development projects have become increasingly popular in development cooperation. So far, their popularity has not been matched with an equal attention for quantitative evidence on their effectiveness. This study investigates the impact of the Mahila Samakhya programme, based on a unique dataset that the author collected in 2003. The results show that Mahila Samakhya has significantly improved trust and cooperation among participants, as well as immunization rates, schooling and access to informal credit. Moreover, the evaluation finds evidence of substantial externalities on households who do not participate in the programme themselves but who live in a village where the programme is active. Not taking into account such spillover effects would seriously underestimate the impact of the programme. However, the study does not find evidence of the hypothesized self-reinforcing mechanism between social capital and collective action.