5 Minute Inspiration: How does a savings account promote men's engagement?

by 12th Jun 2018
Makulata, a member of the local VSLA, with her family in their home in Lilongwe District, Malawi. Makulata, a member of the local VSLA, with her family in their home in Lilongwe District, Malawi.

Women in Malawi say that being able to open their own bank account or save with a VSLA has caused their husbands to be more engaged.

According to one Village Agent in Malawi, VSLAs are transforming gender dynamics in the household, but maybe not the way you think. Having money outside the home means men have to negotiate more: “[women] keep their money at the VSLA, which means the men cannot just get it from them. Instead, men have found a way of getting them involved so that they can release the money and that they may also enjoy the benefits with them.”

The Malawi Microfinance program ran from 2013-2016 with the generous support of the Australian NGO Cooperative Program. It reached more than 20,000 households.

What did we accomplish?

  • Helped families save: Families saw at least a 50% increase in savings, and sometimes as much as 10 times more savings.
  • Bridged the hungry season: 63% of families said that their savings helped them buy food during the lean season, so they were less likely to go hungry. 25% said that the advice about food they got during trainings helped them better plan for the lean season.
  • Made savings more secure: The average savings for families who connected to banks was $44, 70% higher than for families who were saving at home with no bank account. Many participants said they felt that their money was safer.
  • Linked women and families to banks: 3,000 people opened new bank accounts, and families were 49% more likely to open an account. Women were 33% more likely to say that financial services did benefit women.
  • Women are more involved in decisions: 65.6% of women said that they were involved in decisions at home.

How did we get there?

  • Get families access to information: The project provided 22,167 people with financial education, and 16,220 people business training.
  • Build into existing projects: The Microfinance project built into other projects, like MAZIKO, Pathways, and WE-RISE.  That meant they could spend less time forming new VSL groups and worrying about selecting communities, doing startup, and other project logistics.
  • Use technology: The project used both mobile money accounts and connections to physical banks to help VSLA members connect to financial services.

Want to learn more?

Check out the final evaluation.

Coming soon: Keep a look out for our wrap-up blog on the SG2018 Power of Savings Groups conference held in Rwanda last month.

Emily Janoch

Emily Janoch is Senior Technical Advisor on Knowledge Management for the CARE USA Food and Nutrition Security team focusing on ways to better learn from and share practical experience on eradicating poverty through empowering women and girls. She focuses on learning from programming and using that learning to improve impact.

With four years of on-the-ground experience in West Africa, 10 years of development experience, and academic publications on community engagement and the human element in food security in Africa, Emily is especially interested in community-led development. She has experience in food security, nutrition, health, governance, and gender programming, and has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters' in Public Policy in International and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Email: ejanoch@care.org