Increasing Women’s Voice and Agency Using Role Models and Skills Training: Experimental Evidence from the MNREGA Program in Odisha, India

Last registered on November 01, 2023

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Increasing Women’s Voice and Agency Using Role Models and Skills Training: Experimental Evidence from the MNREGA Program in Odisha, India
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0012350
Initial registration date
October 27, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
November 01, 2023, 4:07 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
IFPRI

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
IFPRI
PI Affiliation
IFPRI
PI Affiliation
IFPRI
PI Affiliation
IFPRI

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2023-05-11
End date
2024-04-15
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
Can exposing women to role models improve their participation in community decision-making and broadly increase their perceived voice and agency beyond the household? And can additionally providing skills training on identifying policy priorities, setting goals, and speaking in public bolster any effects? We consider these research questions in the context of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) program in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. The MGNREGA entitles each rural Indian household to a minimum of 100 days of manual unskilled work at stipulated minimum wages. A key secondary goal of this program is creating durable assets to promote sustainable rural livelihoods. On paper, decisions around which assets will be constructed and where are to be made by community members in a participatory process. Across 94 communities in 4 districts, we will gather 1400 groups of women (approximately 15 per community). Each group will involve a target woman – selected at random from among all women in the community whose households hold an MGNREGA job card (a necessary document to participate in the program and select assets) – as well as 3-5 friends or neighbors (not family members) she invites to join her. Interventions with these groups will be conducted by a team of trained facilitators, one per group.

We have three study arms. All women will receive a brief information leaflet containing details on the formal processes for demanding assets under the MGNREGA, including information on eligibility and the types of assets that are feasible, and how women can participate in meetings at the revenue village and village levels (palli sabhas and gram sabhas, respectively). The facilitator will orally discuss all of the details of the leaflet with each group. In the placebo group only, the women gathered will watch an approximately 15-minute video unrelated to our study. Treatment group 1 (T1) will receive an aspirations treatment; gathered women will watch and discuss a 15-20-minute inspirational video about how women in Odisha have successfully participated in MGNREGA asset selection. Treatment group 2 (T2) will receive the aspirations treatment as for T1 and an additional skills training; specifically, they will receive a new training curriculum called “Planning for Voice” focused on conferring the skills needed to demand desired MGNREGA assets. This skills training takes approximately 1.5 hours to administer and emphasizes how to set specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timebound goals in relation to participating in the MGNREGA asset selection process, while offering opportunities for role play and public speaking practice around asset demands. Importantly, the recruitment script will be the same for all study groups and facilitators carefully trained on not sharing any information about the training they are to receive with women before consenting them.

We will analyze the impacts of each of T1 and T2 relative to the placebo. Treatments received in the placebo allow us to ensure it is not the act of gathering, or information about how to participate in asset selection, that drives the effects of T1 and T2, but rather the inspirational video, or the combination of the inspirational video plus public speaking skills training components. While information and gathering on their own may confer some benefits, the purpose of this study is to test the independent effects of raising aspirations, and or raising aspirations in addition to conferring skills, in demanding assets. We posit that T1 will deliver improvements for some women relative to placebo, and T2 will deliver significantly more improvements than does T1.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Karachiwalla, Naureen et al. 2023. "Increasing Women’s Voice and Agency Using Role Models and Skills Training: Experimental Evidence from the MNREGA Program in Odisha, India." AEA RCT Registry. November 01. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.12350-1.0
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Our interventions are intended to strengthen community participation in asset selection under the MGNREGA and in particular to enhance the voice and agency of women in this process. They will be randomized at the individual woman level and delivered to groups of 4-6 women (one “target” woman and 3-5 women she identifies as being friends or neighbors that are not family members and are interested in joining) by a trained facilitator with experience in women’s empowerment interventions.

We have three study arms. Specifically, we randomly assign 1/3 of the sample to the aspirations treatment (T1); 1/3 of the sample to the skills treatment (T2); and 1/3 of the sample to the placebo group.

Treatment group 1 (T1) will receive an aspirations treatment; gathered women will watch and discuss a 15-20-minute inspirational video about how women in Odisha have successfully participated in MGNREGA asset selection (spending approximately 1 hour together in total). The video will feature 3-4 women from similar communities who have been successful in demanding assets under the program. The video will be shown by a trained facilitator, who will pause at key, pre-identified points to initiate a discussion with the participants.

For women assigned to treatment group 2 (T2), they receive T1 exactly as above, but we additionally introduce a new skills training curriculum called “Planning for Voice,” focused on conferring the skills needed to speak up in public about desired MGNREGA assets. This skills training takes approximately 1.5 hours to administer and emphasizes how to set specific, measurable, actionable, and relevant goals in relation to participating in the MGNREGA asset selection process, plus offers opportunities for role play and public speaking practice around asset requests. This additional skills training strengthens the chance that a bottom-up intervention can make a difference.

Both the aspirations treatment and the skills training naturally provide greater information and transparency over how MGNREGA assets are selected: by watching women who have been successful within the MGNREGA program in the state of Odisha at obtaining assets in the film, participants are learning information about what types of assets can be obtained through the program and how the decision-making process around asset selection works. Thus, observed effects could be driven by greater information about the program in general rather than by enhanced aspirations.

Nonetheless, just the act of pausing a normally very busy day to watch any film with friends may lift women’s spirits and affect their social networks and aspirations beyond the content of this specific film. To control for both the information and the gathering effects of the treatments, we also randomly assigned 1/3 of the women in the sample to a placebo treatment arm. Across all treatment arms, including the placebo arm, women will receive an information leaflet containing details on the formal processes for demanding assets under the MGNREGA, including information on eligibility and the types of assets that are feasible, and how women can participate in village meetings. The facilitator will go over all of the details of the leaflet orally with each group. By providing this information to all study groups, we assure that it is not information on participation alone that is driving the results of our treatments. Then, in the placebo group only, the women gathered will watch an approximately 15-minute video unrelated to our study. The goal of this video is to ensure that the placebo group also has some time to spend together and congregate – allowing us to additionally partial out the effects of gathering with friends to watch a movie in the first place, regardless of the content.
Intervention Start Date
2023-11-03
Intervention End Date
2023-12-08

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
1. Proactively requested asset: The female respondent has ever proactively requested an asset, either individually or as part of a group (binary)
2. Ever participated in palli sabha to discuss MGNREGA: The respondent has ever participated in a palli sabha to discuss the list of MGNREGA works in the village (binary)
3. Met and discussed any issue with an MGNREGA functionary: The respondent met and discussed any issue with an MGNREGA functionary, like the Gram Rozgaar Sewak (GRS), Technical Assistant (TA) or Panchayat Executive Officer (PEO) (binary)
4. MGNREGA assets were discussed in self-help group (SHG) meeting: Individual or group-level demands for MGNREGA assets were discussed in SHG meetings in the past year (binary)
5. Ever discussed requesting an MNREGA asset with her husband or other family member (binary). (only available at endline)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
These are to be coded as binary variables present for all individuals answering the question. Primary outcome 4 is only non-missing for women who are members of SHGs.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary indicators reflect the pathways through which these primary outcomes are achieved:
1. MGNREGA asset knowledge score: knowledge of eligibility criteria for MGNREGA assets, normalized to a 100-point scale (continuous, combination of 11 sub-indicators)
2. Public speaking: the number of situations (out of a possible 7) where the respondent reports being either very or fairly comfortable speaking up in public (continuous)
3. Self-efficacy: the number of statements (out of a possible 4) where the respondent indicates a high degree of self-efficacy, i.e., either agrees or strongly agrees with the statement in question, reverse-coded as appropriate (continuous)
4. Gender perceptions: the number of statements (out of a possible 10) where the respondent agreed with the more gender-progressive interpretation of the statement, reverse-coded as appropriate (continuous)

As well as several “spillover” indicators, which are not directly related to our intervention but might change as a result of it:
5. MGNREGA work knowledge score: Knowledge of eligibility criteria and processes involved with working under the MGNREGA, normalized to a 100-point scale (continuous, combination of 4 sub-indicators)
6. Decision-making: number of decisions (out of a possible 15) where the respondent is either the sole decisionmaker in the household, or had some or a great deal of input into the decision (continuous)
7. Freedom of movement: the total number of places (out of a possible 12) that the respondent reported either not being prevented from going or not needing/wanting to go (continuous)
8. Participation in community groups (like new or increased participation in a SHG, school council, other committee) (binary and continuous for number of groups). (only available at endline)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Variable construction is as described above; we will create the indices described above as well as construct indices using a principal components analysis and taking the first principal component. We will standardize outcomes for ease of interpretation.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We collected a baseline survey during May – July 2023 in five districts (Kalahandi, Mayurbhanj, Bolangir, Ravagada, and Ganjam) of Odisha state, India. These districts spanned five different agroclimatic zones and were selected from among the top ten districts in terms of MGNREGA asset construction over the five year period prior to the survey (limited to assets related to natural resource management). Our goal in doing so was to ensure this program was operational and thus relevant in our study context. We then selected 50 Gram Panchayats (GPs) per district at random from the universe of GPs, with probability proportional to the number of active 2021-22 job card holders in that GP (individuals must be from a household with a job card to be able to participate in the program and select assets to be constructed under it). In each GP, we selected 15 households at random from among all registered MGNREGA job card holders. In each household, our primary respondent was the woman who had worked the highest number of days on the program over the five-year period preceding the survey. If there was more than one such woman, we selected the youngest. If there was no woman in the household who had worked on the program over the five-year period, we selected the wife of the man who had worked the largest number of days over the same period. Our target sample was 3750 women from 250 GPs. At baseline, we were able to interview 3,426 women from 230 GPs. 20 GPs in Ganjam district refused to allow the survey to be conducted.

Due to cost constraints for the project, we selected 1,400 “target” women from the baseline with whom to conduct our interventions. We chose them as follows. First, we made the decision to discontinue the study in Ganjam district. Both the baseline survey and some additional qualitative data we collected suggest that the MGNREGA program does not function well in this district and that it operates in a top-down manner. This means that our planned interventions are less likely to be relevant in this context. Our baseline survey also shows that sample households in Ganjam are significantly wealthier than households in other districts, a characteristic generally associated with a lower demand for MGNREGA work and assets. Finally, the high refusal rate at baseline made it likely that our interventions would not be successful here. The baseline sample in the remaining four districts was 2,982 women, spread across 200 GPs in 60 blocks (an administrative unit above the GP). Second, we reduced the sample size by including only 94 GPs (with 14 additional GPs selected as back-ups) in the remaining 4 districts in our study—Bolangir, Kalahandi, Mayurbhanj, and Rayagada—where travel times were lowest for our survey firm. This helps us substantially with the cost effectiveness of the project. We instructed our implementing partners to always target all women in any GP entered, and to stop when they reach the target of 1400 women included.

We randomized our three study conditions (placebo, T1, T2) at the target woman level, stratifying on GP (there are generally 15 women in each GP, so roughly 5 women in each treatment arm). We handled misfits globally.

Our sample for analysis comprises these 1400 “target” women and one of the 3-5 friends/ neighbors she invites, who we assert must also be a MNREGA job card holder. As we lack baseline survey data for these friends, we are administering a short, pre-treatment questionnaire to this woman. Both sets of women (target women and friends) will be administered an endline questionnaire in February 2024.

We will analyze outcomes, Y_igt, using an ANCOVA specification, as follows:

Y_igt = Beta_0 + Beta_1 T1_ig + Beta_2 T2_ig + Beta_3 Y_ig,t-1 + Delta_g + F_ig + Error_ig

where i indexes women, g indexes GPs, t indexes time (t-1 is baseline, t is endline), T1 is an indicator for assignment to treatment 1, T2 is an indicator for assignment to treatment 2, and F is an indicator for being a friend of the target woman (as opposed to the target woman herself). As we stratify on GP, we include GP fixed effects. The effects of each treatment are relative to the base group of assignment to the placebo group.

We will not have baseline data for our secondary outcomes for all women; for women who are friends/ neighbors of target women, we need to keep our survey instrument short, and thus can only include our primary outcomes. For secondary outcomes, we will thus estimate two specifications: (a) one specification following equation (1), above, but using only our target women; and (b) another specification that includes all women, but omits the baseline (lagged) value of the outcome.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Individual-level randomization (randtreat in Stata), stratified on the GP, and with misfits handled globally
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1400
Sample size: planned number of observations
2800
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
933 women placebo, 933 women T1, 933 women T2
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We estimated the minimum detectable difference for our primary and key secondary outcomes using STATA’s inbuilt routines power twoproportions for binary and power twomeans for continuous outcomes, assuming a sample size of 1400, cluster size 1, a 2:1 ratio of treatment to control, and significance level (alpha) of 0.05. With power 0.8, we are able to detect a change of 25.3-58.8% of the control mean for the binary primary outcomes and 0.16 sd in the continuous secondary outcomes. With power 0.9, we are able to detect a change of 29.4-68.7% of the control mean for the binary primary outcomes and 0.18 sd in the continuous secondary outcomes.
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
International Food Policy Research Institute IRB
IRB Approval Date
2022-12-18
IRB Approval Number
PHND-22-1270

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials