Working Paper

IDS Working Paper 537

Women’s Economic Empowerment and Political Accountability in Mali

Published on 17 April 2020

This working paper focuses on the relationship between women’s economic empowerment and forms of political engagement and accountability.

It draws from the findings of a larger report, commissioned by Oxfam America, to study the potential impacts of their Saving for Change (SfC) microfinance programme for rural Malian women. The background research was conducted in August 2017 in four locations with a long-standing SfC presence, that had been identified as having exceptionally positive experiences in either providing economic opportunities for women or in developing new forms of political consciousness. Through qualitative and ethnographic methods focused primarily at the household level, the research provides insights into perceptions of the impacts of women’s economic growth and empowerment.

The research shows some indications that SfC membership establishes the necessary conditions for women’s as-yet-unrealised future political accountability. SfC membership allows women to achieve collectively what would be either economically or socially unfeasible as individuals. Most importantly, this has resulted in women’s collective land ownership, in defiance of established gender norms. Over time, SfC creates precisely the sort of platform that might enable women’s groups toward political activism and advocacy: autonomous cells that have established mechanisms for effective information dissemination, recognised social capital within rural communities, and practice in collective problem-solving, self-organisation, and adaptability.

Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) research programme

This paper was produced as part of the A4EA research programme.

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Deubel, T.F. and Boyer, M. (2020) Women’s Economic Empowerment and Political Accountability in Mali, IDS Working Paper 537, Brighton: IDS

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