This article discusses and analyses the experience of women involved in a non-government organisation-funded women’s empowerment project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Women involved in the project encounter ideas about community development and urban poverty reduction – in particular, outsider-imposed notions of self-help group formation, women’s empowerment, and community solidarity. The article explores the ways in which power dynamics and social structures in this post-conflict setting affect the outcome of women’s self-help groups. We argue that for some women, vulnerability and social exclusion are reinforced, because of assumptions that both ‘the community’ and ‘women’ are homogenous groupings. In fact, unequal power and diversity among women can derail ideas of solidarity and shared interests in women’s self-help groups.
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