CARE Report Reveals Far-Reaching Benefits of Women’s Economic Empowerment

CARE Report Reveals Far-Reaching Benefits of Women’s Economic Empowerment

3/14/18

Earlier this month, CARE Niger published a study detailing more than 25 years of experience with the Mata Masu Dubara (MMD), a Village Savings and Loans Association in Niger, which has a proven track record of amplifying women’s leadership and empowerment in the country. The report, titled “Political Conscience, Leadership and Collective Action of the MMD Structures in Niger,” shows that feminist activism is the most important and consistent driver behind progressive policy change in West Africa, and reinforces CARE’s efforts to raise the bar for women and girls everywhere.

West Africa, according to many social and economic indicators, is a particularly difficult setting for women. The region has one of the lowest index on gender inequality in the world and is ranked in the category of “very high level of discrimination based on gender.” The illiteracy rate is 86 percent for women, versus 58 percent for men, and the country has the highest rates of population growth, fertility and child marriage in the world. Women are further disadvantaged by patriarchal control over women’s decision making, access to land, education, employment, education and economic activities and political participation.

Since 1991, CARE-supported savings programs, like Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), have helped poor women address some of these constraints through basic financial services and business skills training. That’s because CARE knows that women’s economic empowerment is crucial to creating long-term changes in social norms and economic structures that benefit both men and women. When women have equal access to economic resources and the power to make decisions, the benefits are far-reaching.

The MMD groups in Niger responded to women’s immediate need for savings and credit, while also later supporting women’s leadership capacity and allowing women to access elective positions. Half of the women elected to local municipal office in Niger were VSLA members. Since then, the growth of MMD structures has continued to embrace women and girls empowerment in general, rather than focusing exclusively on their financial needs.

Some of the key findings in the report include:

  • The solidarity and collective action through MMD groups, networks and federations has been shown to be transformative to women’s economic, social and political empowerment.
  • MMD groups expanded laterally as well as vertically, growing in scale of operations by nesting groups in networks and networks in federations, with the prospect of becoming a more influential force across the country.
  • The greatest multiplier for MMD growth lies in the demand from poor, marginalized women for access to basic financial services.
  • The role of CARE as a “facilitation agency” is key to identifying opportunities as they arise, like providing access to other resources and technical assistance for capacity building.

Read the full report here and learn more about CARE’s work on economic development here or watch the video below.

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