Intra-household Dynamics, Social Cohesion and Women’s Empowerment: the Effects of a Graduation Programme in Burundi

Published on 1 July 2019

Graduation model programmes represent a relatively new but well-established type of anti-poverty programming. First designed and implemented in Bangladesh, they are now operational in more than 40 countries across the globe (Arévalo, Kaffenberger, and de Montesquiou 2018). A comprehensive and carefully sequenced package of material transfers, access to financial services and training and coaching has proven successful in reducing poverty, increasing consumption and asset holdings and improving food security, with many benefits being maintained at least in the first year after programme end (Banerjee et al. 2015). Despite the rapidly expanding evidence base on graduation programmes, relatively little information is available about how the programme affects individual household members and their relationships within households and communities. In addition, evidence with respect to whether and how programmes contribute to women’s empowerment is scarce.

We can glean some insights on these issues from research within the wider field of social protection. Studies suggest that participation in programmes can have both positive and negative impacts in terms of intra- and inter-household relationships. A systematic review of cash transfers and intimate partner violence found that programme participation can strengthen intra-household relations but may also lead to tensions (Buller et al. 2016). Earlier work in Burundi has shown that the programme contributes to greater participation in community activities but may also lead to tension (Devereux et al. 2015). The role of economic strengthening interventions in improving women’s empowerment proves to be mixed (Ismayilova et al. 2018). A cross-country evaluation of six programmes did not find any sustained impacts on women decision-making power in relation to health expenditures or home improvements (Banerjee et al. 2015). Nevertheless, other studies in Bangladesh and India found that programmes lead to greater control over income, improved social networks and more self-respect for women (Banerjee et al. 2011; Holmes et al. 2010; HTSPE Limited 2011).

This research aims to contribute to the knowledge base on graduation programmes and its social and relational impacts by assessing the role of Concern Worldwide’s ‘Terintambwe’ Graduation Model programme in Burundi on intra- and inter-household dynamics and empowerment. In doing so, we move away from the model of ‘unitary household decision-making’ that considers the household as a single unit towards a model of ‘collective household decision-making’ that recognises the differential needs and roles of individual household members. It is now widely acknowledged that analysis based on unitary models fails to recognise the complex realities of household units and the processes that take place within them. Collective models recognise and seek to shed light on differential preferences and decision-making processes that happen within households (Quisumbing and Maluccio 2000; Chiappori et al. 1993) Within this model, we pay special attention to women’s roles and the extent to which the programme may lead women’s empowerment. Finally, we place the household within a wider ecological setting, recognising the interface with the wider community.


Keetie Roelen

Research Fellow / Co-Director, Centre for Social Protection

Dilmurad Yusupov

Postgraduate Researcher

Emmanuel Nshimirimana
Gloria Sigrid Uruna


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