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Social networks, mobility, and political participation: The potential for women’s self-help groups to improve access and use of public entitlement schemes in India


  • Kumar, Neha
  • Raghunathan, Kalyani
  • Arrieta, Alejandra
  • Jilani, Amir Hamza
  • Chakrabarti, Suman
  • Menon, Purnima
  • Quisumbing, Agnes R.


Women’s self-help groups (SHGs) have increasingly been used as a vehicle for social, political, and economic empowerment as well as a platform for service delivery. Although a growing body of literature shows evidence of positive impacts of SHGs on various measures of empowerment, our understanding of ways in which SHGs improve awareness and use of public services is limited. To fill this knowledge gap, this paper first examines how SHG membership is associated with political participation, awareness, and use of government entitlement schemes. It further examines the effect of SHG membership on various measures of social networks and mobility. Using data collected in 2015 across five Indian states and matching methods to correct for endogeneity of SHG membership, we find that SHG members are more politically engaged. We also find that SHG members are not only more likely to know of certain public entitlements than non-members, they are significantly more likely to avail of a greater number of public entitlement schemes. Additionally, SHG members have wider social networks and greater mobility as compared to non-members. Our results suggest that SHGs have the potential to increase their members’ ability to hold public entities accountable and demand what is rightfully theirs. An important insight, however, is that the SHGs themselves cannot be expected to increase knowledge of public entitlement schemes in absence of a deliberate effort to do so by an external agency.

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  • Kumar, Neha & Raghunathan, Kalyani & Arrieta, Alejandra & Jilani, Amir Hamza & Chakrabarti, Suman & Menon, Purnima & Quisumbing, Agnes R., 2018. "Social networks, mobility, and political participation: The potential for women’s self-help groups to improve access and use of public entitlement schemes in India," IFPRI discussion papers 1751, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1751

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    2. Quisumbing, Agnes R. & Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela & Raney, Terri L. & Croppenstedt, André & Behrman, Julia A. & Peterman, Amber, 2014. "Synopsis of Gender in agriculture: Closing the knowledge gap:," Issue briefs 84, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Biraj Swain & M. Kumaran, 2012. "Who do ICDS and PDS Exclude and What Can be Done to Change This?," IDS Bulletin, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 43, pages 32-39, July.
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    5. Shylashri Shankar & Raghav Gaiha, 2012. "Networks and Anti-poverty Programs: Experience of India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 24(4), pages 550-569, September.
    6. Swendeman, Dallas & Basu, Ishika & Das, Sankari & Jana, Smarajit & Rotheram-Borus, Mary Jane, 2009. "Empowering sex workers in India to reduce vulnerability to HIV and sexually transmitted diseases," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(8), pages 1157-1166, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kosec, Katrina & Wantchekon, Leonard, 2020. "Can information improve rural governance and service delivery?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 125(C).

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    INDIA; SOUTH ASIA; ASIA; self-help groups; women; public services; empowerment; citizen participation; social capital; government entitlement; social networks; political participation;

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