Original Research

Development of self-help groups for caregivers of children with disabilities in Kilifi, Kenya: Process evaluation

Joseph K. Gona, Charles Newton, Sally Hartley, Karen Bunning
African Journal of Disability | Vol 9 | a650 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v9i0.650 | © 2020 Joseph K. Gona, Charles Newton, Sally Hartley, Karen Bunning | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 May 2019 | Published: 22 July 2020

About the author(s)

Joseph K. Gona, Kuhenza for the Children Foundation, Malindi, Kenya
Charles Newton, Centre for Geographic Research, Coast, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kilifi, Kenya; and, Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom
Sally Hartley, Department of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Karen Bunning, School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norfolk, United Kingdom


Background: Caring for a child with disabilities in a resource-poor setting brings many challenges to the caregiver. We examined the development of self-help groups for caregivers in a rural part of Kenya.

Objectives: To conduct a process evaluation on the development of self-help groups during a 10-month set-up period, focusing on implementation and mechanisms associated with their functional status.

Methods: Using a realist evaluation design, we set up 20 self-help groups for 254 caregivers. An evaluation was conducted to investigate implementation and mechanisms of impact. Implementation focused on caregiver registration, community group support and monitoring visit compliance. Data were collected from group registers, records of meetings and field notes. Mechanisms of impact employed a framework of strengths–weaknesses–opportunities–threats to review the groups at the end of the 10-month set-up period.

Results: Recruitment resulted in registration of 254 participants to 18 groups – two groups disbanded early. Post-evaluation included 11 active and 7 inactive groups. Compliance with the monitoring visits was consistent across the active groups. All groups engaged in ‘merry-go-round’ activities. The active groups were characterised by strong leadership and at least one successful income generation project; the inactive had inconsistent leadership and had dishonest behaviour both within the group and/or externally in the community. Mediators associated with functional status included the following: available literacy and numeracy skills, regular meetings with consistent attendance by the members, viable income generating projects, geographical proximity of membership and strong leadership for managing threats.

Conclusion: Self-help groups have the potential to progress in resource-poor settings. However, critical to group progression are literacy and numeracy skills amongst the members, their geographical proximity, regular meetings of the group, viable income generating projects and strong leadership.


caregivers; children with disabilities; community-based inclusive development; self-help groups


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