The Activists for Social Alternatives or ASA is the largest provider of financial services to poor women in central Tamil Nadu, India, with an outreach of over 60,000 clients.
ASA has undertaken a panel study of a random sample of its participants using Internal Lending System (ILS) member diaries who will be tracked for impact assessment purposes, over a three-year period. The following summary analysis is taken from the detailed report of the impact assessment study conducted by Dr. Helzi Noponen who was sponsored by the Ford Foundation.
Of the four franchises in existence in ASA in 2002, Thiruchirappalli and Pudukottai franchises, were selected for the impact survey. Thirty-eight village centers were chosen for participation in the ILS member diary program. They were randomly selected from a total of 511 centers in the two franchises. This represented 7.4% of the total number of centers and 1,008 members or 8.2% of ASA membership existing in the two franchises.
The data received through the center and member diaries were analyzed and the following impact was noted:
The long term ASA members appear to have made more of a shift to dependence on self-employed enterprises as indicated by the higher percentage of income from micro enterprises, 26.9%, compared with newer members at 19.6%. Livestock rearing as the largest source of income source accounted for only 14% of the sample households. Agriculture as the largest income source was the smallest, averaging between 3.3% and 6.5% of households in the two groups. Also ASA members are more likely to be the largest income provider or a joint provider at 13.3% and 46.4% respectively, compared to newer members at 11% and 40.5%. Likewise, they are also more likely to bear the burden of the largest household expenditure either alone, 19.1%, or jointly with their husband, 42.1%, compared with newer members at only 17% and 32.5% respectively.
Despite the members being drawn from rural districts, 80% of members across the sample were landless. A statistically significant larger number of long term ASA members, however, owned land, 25.8%, compared with newer members at only 15.3%.
Control of Profits
In ASA, the results show that there is a high level of female or joint control of the profits. There were differences between the newer and older members at the .10 significance level that show that long term ASA members, while having similar levels of sole female control of profits at 22 %, have slightly higher percentage of joint control, 71.9% versus 68.3%, and lower sole male control, 6.3% versus 9.5%.
Gender Relations at Home
In terms of participation in household decisions, there was a high degree of female and joint decision-making overall with a higher percentage of long term ASA members having female control of the decision regarding major purchases at 36%, compared to 22% for newer members.
Ownership of Key Assets
There was a much lower percentage of sole male ownership of land assets at 40.1% for long-term members compared to newer members at 54.7%. The long-term ASA participants had higher sole female ownership at 28% compared to 23.5% for newer members. Long-term ASA participants also had higher rates of joint ownership at 26.7% versus 19.4% for newer members.
Women who have been participants of ASA for long time have taken a more active role in community issues. A significantly greater number of long-term ASA members have spoken in a public meeting in the previous 6 months, at 39% compared to 26% for newer members.
This study reveals that ASA’s microfinance program is reaching poor women in the region and providing positive impact on her economic livelihood, social status and treatment in home and community and living conditions and consumption standards.
Compiled By Zain Bari and Nilufar Gani
Source: Noponen, Helzi. “ASA Microfinance Impact Report 2003: Tracking Welfare and Empowerment Outcomes for ASA Participants—Sample Survey Results for Baseline Period of the Internal Learning System,” The Activists for Social Alternatives, Thiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India, 2003.