Village Savings and Loan Associations

A meeting of the Kawete village savings group in Uganda

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Imagine you are a woman living in a developing country, perhaps in a rural village with little or no chance of getting a job. You have no assets. No bank will give you credit because you are too poor and you can neither read nor write because you never went to school. How can you feed your family?

One solution is to become a member of one of CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs). You can use VSLAs to build a business, improve agricultural productivity, send your girls to school, combat gender-based violence, improve your knowledge of health rights and break into the political arena. You will join social networks that allow women to join forces, raise their voices and achieve their goals. At the end, you will become a successful entrepreneur. We also engage men and boys to shift power dynamics and work with local governments, chamber of commerce and business associations to advocate for and create more supportive enabling environments.

We rely on each other and have become friends through the village savings and loans group. We are always together, just like one, to share our ideas and support each other. – Margaret, Malawi

When women earn, everyone benefits. This was CARE’s guiding vision when we launched our first VSLA in Niger in 1991. We harnessed an ancient African practice of group savings, in which community members pooled together their resources to create a kind of village bank. For the first time, women could save small amounts, see their collective savings grow, and borrow money in times of hardship, such as droughts or illness, or to invest in setting up a small business.

VSLA highlights (text)

Read more about how VSLAs work:

25 years of VSLAs (PDF)

CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Associations now thrive across the world – more than 5 million people have become members of VSLAs, and the idea has spread to other international aid organisations and to local organisations, which we train and work with to replicate the model and reach even more people.

Want to see what VSLAs can achieve? Check out this short video about VSLAs in Tanzania:

But VSLAs don't just bring economic gains for women in poor communities – they are the gateway to wider social change, as this short story from the Gender Equity and Women's Empowerment Programme shows: