5 Minutes of Inspiration: Women on the Move

5 Minutes of Inspiration: Women on the Move


By Emily Janoch

The Malian Minister for the Promotion of Women is planning to work with VSLA groups to implement the Malian Fund for women’s empowerment.  More than that, he hopes these groups can be a “watchdog [to] ensure that the government puts in place real projects that meet the needs of women and bring about change in their lives.”

This is just one of many successes from Women on the Move—CARE’s strategy to economically empower 8 million women in West Africa by 2020.

What have we accomplished?

  • Helped women be leaders: Nearly every woman talks about how VSLA is more than savings.  It’s about confidence, empowerment, and feeling like you have possibilities in life.  In Niger alone, the number of women in VSLAs running for public office has gone up nearly 10 times since 2004.
  • Move towards equality: More than 63% of women in programs have been able to participate equally in decisions at home.
  • Get women connected to governments: 47% of women in the projects that reported have been able to work with governments to influence decisions that will better meet their needs.  In Cote d’Ivoire, Salimata Dagnoko not only met with the local mayor to get the water system fixed in her village, she also worked with the Minister of Women to find solutions to GBV.
  • Scaled our model across the region: 7% of women from 15-64 in West Africa are in VSLAs.  That’s 3 million women who have access to finance, savings, and empowerment.  1 million of those women are in CARE programs, and the rest are in VSLAs that others have built on the CARE model.
  • Influenced policy: Niger, Ghana, and Chad were all able to get involved in improving the laws in their country to better support women’s rights and needs.

How did we get there?

  • Working with others: CARE works with Village Agents at the community level—VSLA members who get training so that they can support others to create their own groups.  At the regional level, we convene the Women on the Move Coalition, which brings together groups like CARE, Oxfam, World Vision, and others to advocate for women’s economic empowerment.
  • Connecting women to each other: CARE helps VSLA groups federate so that they can increase their bargaining power, access, and ability to influence policy.
  • Thinking beyond cash: in addition to the savings methods, CARE focuses on women’s ability to influence decisions in home and with government.  The focus on leadership and empowerment helps women think big and access opportunities they couldn’t get through finance alone.
  • Constantly innovating: Since we invented the basic methodology in 1991, CARE has continued to push the boundaries of what VSLA can do. The current pilot is creating a mobile app to help women transform their VSLA history into a credit score that helps them access formal finance.

Want to learn more?

Read the 2017 annual report for Women on the Move.

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