Assessing the Viability of Savings Groups as a Vehicle for Women's Economic Empowerment in Africa
Despite commitments made by governments and other stakeholders to advance women’s economic empowerment, financial inclusion and market participation, the realities of women and girls around the world remain deeply inequitable. Nearly 1 billion women remain unbanked, one in five girls are married before age 18, maternal mortality rates are double what they need to be in order to achieve global targets and, at current rates, it will take over 200 years to achieve gender parity. It is possible to change this situation, and there are promising models to turn to for inspiration and direction. When implemented correctly, CARE’s Savings Group5 model has shown significant evidence that it can deliver on women’s economic empowerment (WEE) outcomes that move beyond simply economic outcomes and push towards gender equality.
With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, from 2018-2019, CARE worked to test a series of hypotheses to answer two key questions:
How can we effectively ensure that savings groups are delivering WEE outcomes? What evidence exists to show that this is possible and that it creates impact?
Drawing from an extensive review of existing literature, 12 in-depth case studies from East Africa, key informant interviews and round table discussions with key sector stakeholders, this research provides promising answers to both questions, and provides suggestions for practical pathways to scale Savings Groups. It also reveals important gaps in existing data and provides recommendations for further exploration to discover best practices in using Savings Groups to deliver WEE outcomes.