Savings Groups are one of the most consistent and sustainable platforms for community development worldwide. Currently, there are more than 15 million members in Savings Groups in more than 73 countries around the world, supported by hundreds of development organizations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These groups are overwhelmingly made up of poor, rural women; they are a critical engine for economic opportunity, a source of social solidarity and a safety net for many families in vulnerable situations. These groups have proven that they are resilient and resourceful. Often, they are at the frontlines of the local response to crisis.
COVID-19 poses crucial health and economic risks for Savings Groups, as markets falter, mobility is restricted, and community gathering is restrained. As many members are women, they are likely to be primary caregivers during the health crisis, which puts them at special risk of additional burdens, as well as increased risk of intimate partner and sexual violence.
These recommendations will help organizations consider how best to support Savings Groups and their members during this crisis. They also address how to support Savings Groups as leaders of community-level response efforts and maintain safety nets. This guidance draws on experiences working with Savings Groups during times of crises including conflict, natural disasters and epidemics, such as Ebola.
We recognize the uncertainty faced by Savings Groups and the organizations that work with them: the health crisis poses crucial long-term challenges. This guidance note is focused on the ‘here and now’ – and a set of recommendations to guide the work of Savings Groups during the global pandemic.