Project Snapshot

  • Project: POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Women's Economic Empowerment in Rural Africa)
  • Goal: To increase financial inclusion for 480,000 individuals and their families
  • Target group: Poor, food insecure households in rural areas, with a focus on women and adolescent girls
  • Where: Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Rwanda
  • Duration: 2014-2017 (4 years)

The Problem

The poorest households in the rural areas of Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Rwanda are significantly excluded from financial services. Gender inequalities in these areas mean that women are the most excluded and most vulnerable and cannot access even the most basic financial services, such as a savings account or a small loan. Without access to education, training, or the ability to save money, it is impossible for women to lift themselves out of poverty.

What CARE is Doing

CARE is working with women and adolescent girls in poor, rural communities to help them form savings groups, to provide financial education and to open access to financial institutions. Savings groups, also known as Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), are groups of community members, usually women, who contribute small amounts to group savings monthly. The group then lends to a group member so she can start a business, access education, or purchase food for her family. She then pays the loan back with a manageable amount of interest and the savings continue to grow. VSLAs provide basic savings and credit services for women that financial institutions currently don’t offer. These savings groups also allow women to share skills and advice, start trainings on gender equality, and learn about managing household finances and business management, among other things.

CARE also works with financial institutions to develop simple financial products and services appropriate to the needs of savings groups and individual group members. By linking to financial institutions, savings groups and members have a safe place to store their savings and can access higher loan amounts than would have been possible otherwise, leading to further financial independence.

You can also visit the CARE POWER Africa website for more in-depth information on the project:

And check out the POWER adolescent girls website:

Project Targets

  • CARE is developing scalable and replicable models for banks and micro-finance institutions to link with VSLAs
  • Over 300,000 new VSLA members (40% living below the poverty line, 70% being women)
  • Over 205,000 VSLA members linked to a formal financial institutions
  • Over 440,000 VSLA members have increased financial literacy levels
  • VSLA members are using financial services to diversify and enhance their livelihood options