Courage, Decisions, and Networks — The Real Benefits of VSLA

Courage, Decisions, and Networks — The Real Benefits of VSLA


How economic empowerment is born — not from dollars, but from women, networks, and courage. Learn more.

By Emily Janoch

“When I joined the group, I was young and shy. But I was supported and encouraged to participate, to take on roles of responsibility in the group,” Celestine, a VSLA member in West Africa, said. “The group changed my life and I told some friends about it. We created another group where I am the secretary, because I have learned to write basic numbers.”

Before I never dared make a decision about my children or others; now I have the courage to tell my husband my ideas at home and be involved in decision-making in the savings groups. I hope one day to create and lead more and more savings groups and create a network, like the women we met from Niger’.”

Celestine is one of the 3.2 million women in West Africa who are benefiting from VSLA, or Village Savings and Loan Associations. Her passion and vision capture the unique spark of VSLA, the centerpiece of CARE’s work in West Africa. Women on the Move is a CARE regional strategy for West Africa that runs from 2016-2020 and aims to help 8 million women and girls become economically empowered.

"Before I never dared make a decision about my children or others; now I have the courage..." — Celestine

In the rural areas of Niger, Villages like Kagadam are close nit communities where families and neighbors depend on each other to survive in the harsh dry Sahel region.


What have we accomplished?

  • More women have access to finance: 652,633 additional women got access to informal financial services, and 11,630 connected to formal banks.
  • Governments are promoting VSLA: Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mali have all adopted formal policies to promote VSLA groups as a key strategy for women’s economic empowerment. Niger has also included an action plan for implementation to help them advance the agenda.
  • Banks are spreading the model: Ecobank in Cote d’Ivoire and the Bank of Sierra Leone are adopting VSLA. Ecobank is adopting the Village Agents to work as mobile banking agents, and Sierra Leone has committed to working with savings groups in its financial inclusion strategy.
  • Women are participating in more decisions: 28,565 women are now participating in financial decisions at home.
  • Women can assert their rights: 166,652 women are participating in groups that help them assert their rights and collectively negotiate.

How did we get there?

  • a safe money box for the village saving and loans (VSLA) group in mission.

    Work with coalitions: Women on the Move has seven active partnership platforms across West Africa that include other NGOs, governments, banks, and women in groups to focus on scaling VSLA.

  • Build evidence: CARE Benin participated in releasing a study with Finscope to influence policy makers.
  • Work with local women: Benin, Togo, and Cote d’Ivoire have all adopted models where women in VSLAs themselves scale the model to others so that more women can benefit from the savings, financial inclusion, and social solidarity that comes with VSLA.

Want to learn more?

Check out the 2018 Impact Report here.

Thanks to our advocates in the U.S., CARE successfully passed the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act of 2018, which recognizes the impact of savings-led approaches, like VSLAs, as a means to bring economic opportunity within grasp for women worldwide. CARE Action and its advocates will be working in the new Congress to use the WEEE Act as a starting point for broader work that will empower women globally, including improving access to health services and addressing gender-based violence. Learn more about CARE Action’s work on women’s economic empowerment here.

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