Psychological and social factors that limit female autonomous decision making and control over resources have been cited as important obstacles to the impact of microfinance and business training programs (Jakiela and Ozer 2016, Field, Jayachandran and Pande, 2010, Field et al. 2015, de Mel, Mckenzie and Woodruff 2014, Fiala, 2018). Psychological factors include self-control problems, feeling incapable of resisting demands from peers and family members and low perceived self-efficacy. Social factors may include intra-household constraints on women’s ability to work outside the home or interact with non-household members and lack of bargaining power. Recent literature does show there is scope for innovative light-touch training that focuses on constraints faced by women and peer support (DuBois, 2011; Macours and Vakis, 2014) to be effective in encouraging female enterprise.

Please note: in light of the current COVID-19 situation, the endline survey - which had been scheduled to run in-person during the summer of 2020 - will be substituted by a phone survey, designed to capture pre-lockdown outcomes. This will also be used to understand the impact of the pandemic on female-run microentreprises.

Intra-Household Bargaining

The sample for the study is drawn from client lists of our microfinance collaborator, the National Rural Support Programme in Gujranwala district in Punjab, Pakistan. Pakistan represents an interesting setting for the project, given the low levels of female labour force participation (22%), primarily due to lack of social acceptability of female economic activities conducted outside the household (Roomi, 2013, Gine and Mansuri, 2016). The research team conducted a weekly listing exercise of all individual liability microenterprise loans issued in the target area to identify women with pre-existing business.

Experimental Design

The researchers study nearly 2,000 female entrepreneurs who have all recently received a microfinance loan. The main intervention combined documentaries on successful local role models of women using their loans for their own business (Bernard et al., 2014, Field et al., 2010), with a short exercise on goal setting, planning and implementation intentions techniques (Duckworth et al., 2013). After a baseline survey, the enumerator randomly assigned the female entrepreneur to either treatment or the placebo. Half of the sample was randomised into this treatment, while women assigned to the control group watched a placebo documentary, with no exposure to goal setting or implementation planning exercises. Half of the women in control and treatment groups were also randomised to spouses (or main male decision maker in the household) being present during the intervention.

One story is narrated by Saba, who highlights the challenges she faced when she initially set up her business and how she overcame these.


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de Mel, Suresh, David McKenzie and Christopher Woodruff  (2009). Are Women More Credit Constrained?: Experimental Evidence on Gender and Micro enterprise Returns. American Economic Journal : Applied Economics  1 (3): 1-32.

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