Microsavings and Economic Development: Women on the Path to Equality
Gender inequality is one of the underlying causes of poverty. Enhancing women’s economic empowerment is a key lever to achieve fair, sustainable and inclusive development. The work of CARE has therefore focused on the economic empowerment of women through the promotion of village savings and loan associations (VSLA).
Gender inequality is one of the underlying causes of poverty. No country has yet achieved full gender equality. While women continue to be under-represented in decision-making bodies and remain victims of violence and discrimination, they also encounter many obstacles in their personal and working lives. Gender equality is nonetheless a basic human right. Women are also key stakeholders in the development process, and enhancing their empowerment is critical to achieving fair, sustainable and inclusive development.
For 20 years, the work of CARE has focused on the economic empowerment of women through the promotion of village savings and loan associations (VSLA). These associations enable women to pool savings and raise sufficient resources to build livelihoods or to fund their personal and household needs. By providing women with access to financial services such as savings and credit, village associations represent a first step towards economic empowerment and gaining a more sustainable foothold in the workforce. Building income-generating activities offers the most vulnerable women a way to emerge gradually from poverty, as well as strengthen their resilience when faced with major crises.
Economic empowerment is therefore a key contributing factor to the emancipation of women. Through financial independence, women gain more power to make decisions that affect their future. Village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) also offer training and assistance in order to improve knowledge and the ability to exercise rights, as well as build self-confidence. As a means towards gaining full emancipation, VSLAs help to ensure that women have equal access to decision-making authorities over issues of economic - as well as social and political - importance.
However, achieving sustainable empowerment for women calls for an inclusive approach, in particular by involving men and boys in the process. By raising awareness among men of the importance of gender equality and respecting women’s rights, they too can contribute positively to change. In order to effect sustainable change in social norms and attitudes, it is essential that the whole community is involved in the process of the emancipation of women. To achieve sustainable emancipation, CARE includes men in its economic empowerment programmes for women, and ensures that VSLAs act as a springboard for women as they seek to become key actors in economic, political and social develop