Vietnam_Women with unique buns wearing traditional clothing walking down the street
Photo: Laura Noel/CARE

5 Min Inspiration: 17.65 million people change their lives

“Now I see what I am capable of, which motivates me. It means I can do more. I want to keep going and keep moving forward. The VSLA showed me a path through the crisis, but I am the one who had to take that path.” – Zemzem Nori, VSLA Member – Ethiopia

By joining a VSLA, a woman can improve multiple areas of her life including educating her children, increasing her income, improving her access to healthcare, engaging in collective action, and so much more. This year’s Annual Report highlights the impacts that VSLAs have had on the 17.65 million members across the globe.

The VSLA Scaling Strategy, launched in 2018, includes working with governments to scale farther, deepening impact through existing CARE programming, improving the sustainability of both VSLAs and the supply chains in which they operate alongside our corporate partners, and identifying how to bridge our humanitarian work with long-term recovery. Through these routes, CARE is still striving towards reaching 65 million people through VSLAs by 2030 with an emphasis on layering interventions to ensure that group savings are invested in the growth (economic, social, and personal) of VSLA members, their families, and communities.

Papua-N-G_Woman wearing bee suit standing with smoke can by bee box in the garden

Dorcas is a beekeeper, cocoa and coffee farmer who is part of a VSLA in Goroka, Papau New Guinea, which has helped fund her son's education and grow her business. Photo: Douglas Diave/CARE

What did we accomplish?

  • Since the launch of the VSLA Scaling Strategy, membership in VSLAs have doubled globally. Over 17.65 million people have joined VSLAs globally with over 13.7 million of them being women. These members make up 802,400 groups across 64 countries with 35% of them being youth members.
  • VSLAs assist in increasing agricultural productivity as well as improving food outcomes for members. In Malawi, members have access to financial and business skills training which enhances their agricultural productivity. Globally, VSLA members are also 50-60% less likely to experience food insecurity than non-members. Even in crisis contexts, combining cash assistance with VSLA membership contributes to an additional 30-35% increase in food security.
  • Members in cocoa growing supply chains experience higher levels of decision-making. Through our corporate partnership with MARS, women in VSLAs are more involved in decision-making both within the household and on the farm which has had profoundly positive effects on both household and farm incomes as well as family dynamics.
  • Members experience higher levels of financial stability and resilience. A woman in a savings group is 54% more likely to own an asset and 37% more likely to be able to sell that asset without asking anyone’s permission. Members of VSLAs are also up to 85% more likely than those not in groups to have financial reserves to draw on during emergencies.  
  • Benefits beyond savings. For every $250 invested in VSLAs, three children go back to school. Even in crisis settings, members in Yemen maintained $194 USD in savings in the midst of economic turmoil in the year following the pilot of VSLAs in their communities.
Niger_Girls sitting on blue and cream mat chatting in front of money box

Adolescent girls from Niamey, Niger, gather in their VSLA group where they discuss how to better save money towards their futures. Photo: Ylva Seiff Berge/CARE Norway

How did we get there?

  • Influencing third parties to form savings groups. Concerted, long-term partnerships with government ministries, civil society and non-governmental organizations, financial institutions, and private companies at the local, national, and international levels resulted in important policy and programmatic decisions to expand savings groups in different sectors.
  • Establishing VSLAs as the foundation of CARE’s work on food and nutrition security. VSLAs are now embedded in $770 million USD’s worth of CARE’s Food and Water Systems programming. This includes using VSLAs as a platform to promote improved nutrition, access to markets for women farmers, and more.
  • Changing the narrative on how governments work with women. The Global VSLA team has engaged governments to focus on partnerships that ensure high quality, high impact VSLAs.  In Uganda, CARE offers technical expertise to its government and has integrated VSLAs into to nationally scaled government programs. In Vietnam, VSLAs are being rapidly formed in partnership with a quasi-government entity through programming and evidence-based advocacy.
  • Scaling VSLAs through corporate partnerships. To date, almost 80,000 VSLA members have been supported through our partnership with MARS and has created sustainable change in cocoa growing communities. These successes has led to a new partnership with Hershey to grow our corporate supply chain work.
  • Building the bridge between development and emergency programming with VSLAs in Emergencies. The VSLA in Emergencies (VSLAiE) approach has been fully piloted and is now embedded in $51.6 million USD worth of current CARE programming. By combining emergency cash assistance with adapted savings groups, VSLA members in crisis settings can build more stability for their futures.
  • Listening to VSLA members. Allowing VSLA members to grow in our scaling activities through several initiatives. First, Women Respond allowed us to listen to VSLA members (4,185 VSLA members consulted 2020-2022) and address their needs and priorities better directly.
  • Building digital connections. Through the Digital CARE Package (launched in 2022), we will assist in facilitating access to internet-enabled phones with relevant apps, associated training, and norms shifting campaigns while also broadening the functionality of the Chomoka app and increasing VSLA members’ access to formal finance and networks. Lastly, the formation of a Monitoring & Evaluation dashboard which will allow us to deepen insights on how VSLAs accrue gains over time.
Ghana_Woman with pot on her head and bowl of corn in her hand standing in the middle of street

Mary Adu, a VSLA member, invests her money in her business of selling corn snacks to school children on their lunch breaks. Photo: Laura Noel/CARE

Where do we go next? 

The Global VSLA team has identified a set of priorities for the next year to move us even closer to our goal of 50 million women in VSLAs by 2030. These include developing new guidance for CARE programs on integrating VSLAs across all outcome areas as well as continuing to scale our initiatives such as VSLAiE, Women Respond and the Digital CARE Package. Read the full report for more insights on what’s next for VSLA!

Want to learn more?
FY23 Global VSLA Annual Report