The role of informal social security arrangements in providing social protection: A case study of women self-help groups in Kabras Location, Kakamega County (Kenya)
This study investigates the contribution of Women Self Help Groups (WSHG) to social protection at the level of the household in rural settings in Kabras location, Kakamega County, Kenya. It is premised on evidence that shows that in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), formal social protection provided by the state is inadequate. Given that most social protection programs in SSA are externally funded, the rapidly changing global socio-political environment also poses uncertainties around the sustainability of social protection in the region. The ongoing European refugee crisis for instance is likely to affect the amount of development aid available to developing countries. With these realities, majority of the poor people in SSA depend on their personal assets to manage risks that they are exposed to. This study employs a range of qualitative techniques to determine how WSHGs provide social protection to poor women in rural Kenya. Through activities such as merry go round, group savings, table banking, risk spreading and welfare assistance, WSHGs were found to be effective in providing crucial safety nets that enabled women to prevent, cope and mitigate risks such as illness and income insecurity and shocks such as death. They also enabled various capabilities for the women involved in them. Nonetheless, the inadequacy of the benefits provided through WSHGs and exclusion of poorer, economically inactive, single and landless women limited the capacity of WSHGs to effectively deal with poverty, risk and vulnerability. These findings led the researcher to conclude that the limitations of WSHGs underscore the crucial need for the state to provide universal or categorical targeted social protection instruments that address all women who reside in rural Kenya. These should, where possible, build on the already existing informal social protection institutions. Informal social protection arrangements should be seen as complementary social protection strategies rather than parallel institutions.