Case Study

Managing Resources, Activities and Risk in Urban India: The Impact of SEWA Bank

Deliverables and impact measurement: Study of SEWA bank, India
Download 370 pages

This study measures the impact of microfinance services of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) on low-income women of Ahmedabad, in India.

The explicit hypothesis was that specific impact may be found at three different levels - household, enterprise and the individual level. The data used for cross section and longitudinal statistical tests was from surveys conducted in 1998 and 2000 for 798 respondents. The researchers also carried out complementary analyses.

The clients of SEWA were poor and belonged to backward sections of society. They faced severe discrimination and worked as micro entrepreneurs, subcontractors or casual laborers. The sample included:

  • Current borrowers;
  • Savers in SEWA Bank who did not have a loan outstanding;
  • A comparable control group.

The study found:

  • Services of SEWA Bank raises household income, both total and per capita;
  • Evidence is mixed on participation enhancing all the remaining hypothesized impact variables;
  • The number of loans taken from SEWA Bank is strongly related to several impacts;
  • Urban poor earn their living working primarily as laborers;
  • Social relations are important and confer value according to the gender and caste;
  • Loan usage is fungible.

The research has the following implications:

  • Methods should allow statistical validation and qualitative interpretation of impact;
  • Hypotheses and customized tools should guide future assessments;
  • Capturing or measuring change is difficult,
  • Concepts of microfinance, micro enterprise development, women's empowerment and poverty alleviation need to be broadened.

About this Publication

By Chen, M. & Snodgrass, D.