3 BOMA women stocking their business in Gob Dere, Korr, northern Kenya. Photo: David duChemin

As part of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development Global Grand Challenges grant, we recently completed a study to determine BOMA’s impact on participants in our gender-focused program for ultra-poor women. Specifically, we wanted to explore whether increased economic power had led to corresponding increases in voice, choice, and agency: increased household decision-making power, changes in education opportunities for girls, better household food security and healthcare access.

Independent enumerators conducted baseline and midline Standard of Living Index (SOLI) surveys on demographically comparable groups of participants. The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) reviewed the data analysis and content. At midline, participants showed significant increases in business value, income and savings. They were also asked to report on decision-making power in eight areas on a scale from one to 10. Midline results showed that with increased income, savings, and access to credit from BOMA savings groups, participants are more empowered to make household financial decisions. However, the study showed only a slight increase in overall school enrollment for girls, suggesting that more work needs to be done to overcome both income-related and cultural barriers to educating girls. BOMA is working with field officers, mentors, participants and community stakeholders to identify opportunities for change which will have profound implications for breaking the generational cycle of extreme poverty.

“Empowerment is not just about money,” says Kathleen Colson, BOMA founder and CEO. ”Money is just one of the many barriers disenfranchised people, especially women, must overcome to build resiliency and self-sufficiency. Lack of social capital, little access to education, and exclusion from formal financial systems, all contribute to keeping vulnerable populations below the extreme poverty line.”

BOMA’s commitment to rigorous data collection and monitoring our participants’ progress and adjusting our program to overcome challenges is essential to our success if we are to achieve our goal of impacting one million women and children by 2022. Please read more about this important study here:
A Qualitative Assessment of the Effect of a Gender-Focused Poverty Graduation Model on Household Decision Making, Household Conflict, and Child Labor.