Human Dignity and women’s Rights


CARE’s Approach to Women’s Economic Empowerment

Wilstar has been a partner of CARE since 2015, supporting their work to promote women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship in Rwanda and across the world. The work we support builds on the activities in a network of ”Village Savings and Loan Associations” (VSLAs). The VSLA groups, initially developed by CARE Norway in Niger, are small and informal, self-managed and self-capitalised banks. By having members mobilise and manage local pools of capital, the groups facilitate secure saving, and offers credit as well as social insurance to people without access to formal financial services.
The model has spread to at least 73 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with over twelve million active participants worldwide, around half of whom are part of programmes supported by CARE. The VSLAs are among the most effective vehicles for promoting economic development. By design, groups are either fully composed by women or they make up the majority. As such, they contribute significantly to women’s general empowerment, including participation in local decision-making.
Experiences from Rwanda
CARE Rwanda has worked with VSLAs for the past 15 years. More than 17,000 groups have been formed, benefiting more than 430,000 people, of whom 78 percent are women. Many of the groups have reached the maturity-stage of the VSLA life cycle, where they continue to operate with less direct support from CARE.

As groups mature, their success brings new challenges and opportunities, which can only be met through access to formal micro-finance institutions (MFIs). Security risks associated with holding larger amounts of cash in savings boxes make formal bank arrangements necessary. As members achieve better business management skills, their need for investment capital can no longer be met by local funds raised through pooled savings. To address security challenges and ensure business opportunities are not lost, CARE help facilitate access to appropriate formal financial services in partnership with the Microfinance Institutions Network and The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN).

CARE takes a systematic and comprehensive approach to the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship and improved livelihoods through improving financial literacy, enhancing opportunities for market participation, reducing risks, challenging social norms when necessary and reducing structural and social barriers to women’s economic participation. The ultimate aim is to make it possible for women to lift themselves out of poverty.

The GEWEP programme is integrated with CARE Rwanda´s Hand in Hand job programme. Additionally, training and mentoring provided as part of our Hand-in-Hand job creation programme has helped VSLA members invest and expand their business activities. As a result, 115,000 jobs have been created by more than 90,000 women trained in entrepreneurship in the period January 2014 to December 2015.

The grant from Wilstar contributes to the continuation and expansion of these efforts. As part of the ongoing four year project, CARE Rwanda is testing a model wherein 650 women entrepreneurs are intensively trained in business management and risk mitigation. In addition, they participate in a mentorship programme, with coaching by successful women entrepreneurs’ members of the Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs in Rwanda (a member of the Rwanda Private Sector Federation).

CARE’s Approach to Women’s Economic Empowerment

Wilstar has been a partner of CARE since 2015. Supporting their work to promote women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship in Rwanda and across the world builds on the activities in a network of ”Village Savings and Loans Associations” (VSLAs). These groups, initially developed by CARE Norway in Niger, are small and informal, self-managed and self-capitalised banks. By having members mobilise and manage local pools of capital, it facilitates secure saving, and offers credit as well as social insurance to people without access to formal financial services.

The model has spread to at least 73 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with over twelve million active participants worldwide, around half of whom are part of programmes supported by CARE. The VSLAs are among the most effective vehicles for promoting economic development. By design, groups are either fully composed by women or they make up the majority. As such, they contribute significantly to women’s general empowerment, including participation in local decision-making.

Experiences from Rwanda

CARE Rwanda has worked with VSLAs for the past 15 years. More than 17,000 groups have been formed, benefiting more than 430,000 people, of whom 78 percent are women. Many of the groups have reached the maturity-stage of the VSLA life cycle, where they continue to operate with less direct support from CARE.

As groups mature, their success brings new challenges and opportunities, which can only be met through access to formal micro-finance institutions (MFIs). Security risks associated with holding larger amounts of cash in savings boxes make formal bank arrangements necessary. As members achieve better business management skills, their need for investment capital can no longer be met by local funds raised through pooled savings. To address security challenges and ensure business opportunities are not lost, CARE help facilitate access to appropriate formal financial services in partnership with the Microfinance Institutions Network and The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN).

CARE takes a systematic and comprehensive approach to the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship and improved livelihoods through improving financial literacy, enhancing opportunities for market participation, reducing risks, challenging social norms when necessary and reducing structural and social barriers to women’s economic participation. The ultimate aim is to make it possible for women to lift themselves out of poverty.

The GEWEP programme is integrated with CARE Rwanda´s Hand in Hand job programme. Additionally, training and mentoring provided as part of our Hand-in-Hand job creation programme has helped VSLA members invest and expand their business activities. As a result, 115,000 jobs have been created by more than 90,000 women trained in entrepreneurship in the period January 2014 to December 2015.

The grant from Wilstar contributes to the continuation and expansion of these efforts. As part of the ongoing four year project, CARE Rwanda is testing a model wherein 650 women entrepreneurs are intensively trained in business management and risk mitigation. In addition, they participate in a mentorship programme, with coaching by successful women entrepreneurs’ members of the Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs in Rwanda (a member of the Rwanda Private Sector Federation).

PROJECT

The overall aim of the programme component financed by Wilstar in Rwanda is to strengthen female VSLA members’ ability to establish and run small-scale businesses, to increase their income, and to provide the most successful entrepreneurs among them with access to formal micro financial investment loans. Contributing to this aim, Wilstar’s grant will also help establish further VSLAs and build the capacity of our local partner organisations to ensure the long-term sustainability of achieved results.

  • 18,602 members (82 percent women) have been linked with formal micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to access financial and non-financial services.
  • 798 loans have been taken by VSLAs from MFIs, totalling 482,049,150 RWF (approximately 630,000 USD), enabling groups and members to invest in various businesses.
  • 120 potential women entrepreneurs have been trained in enterprise development.
  • 22 women have been linked with the national Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs through a mentorship programme.

In presentations prior to the grant being given, the following indicators were suggested for measuring the concrete progress made by the project:

  1. Number of “village agents” trained as trainers. Village Agents (VA) are VSLA members with integrity, showing a high level of understanding of the VSLA methodology. VA are chosen by VSLA members to continuously provide support and training to the VSLA and to form new VSLAs in the neighbouring area on demand-driven basis. They work as volunteers to monitor the VSLA activities to ensure quality standard of VSLA methodology by all groups. VAs are also key persons in terms of reporting of VSLA performance in the Monitoring Information System (MIS is the report system where all the data from the VSLAs are registered), they fill in the MIS forms and play the role of intermedia link between the VSLA and other stakeholders. All VAs received Training of Trainers on VSLA methodology, enterprise development and financial literacy and linkage to be able to train their respective VSLAs. Each VA is currently managing 12 VSLAs maximum – for quality purpose and to avoid their work overload. The VA model provides cost-effective mechanisms for scaling up delivery of the VSLA methodology, and has also proven to be an effective means of ensuring project outreach to new beneficiaries. Building a network of locally recruited and trained village agents is an effective strategy for the sustainability of VSLA management, ensuring that community members have the competency to continue organising activities and outreach after CARE scales down their presence. In Rwanda, there are currently 464 village agents in the eight districts covered by the GEWEP. Activities to strengthen the agents and the network continue with this four year project.
  2. Number of VSLA members trained in basic financial literacy and business skills. Over the four year period, the goal is to provide 30,000 members with this training.
  3. Number of VSLAs linked to formal micro-financial institutions (MFIs). Over the four year period, the goal is to link 3,000 VSLAs to MFIs.
  4. Number of VSLAs mentored and coached in enterprise development. Over the four year period, the goal is to provide 22,000 members (among the 30,000 above) with further entrepreneurship training to ensure their ability to receive formal investments.
  5. Number of VSLA members trained in advanced enterprise development. Over the four year period, 6000 members (among the 22,000 above) with high potential to develop their businesses will receive intensive business training and basic incubation support. 650 of the women with the best business ideas will receive further targeted business incubation over twelve months.

By the end of February 2016, the activities financed by the Wilstar/AWECO grant have achieved the following preliminary results¹:

  1. 464 Village Agents selected from the VSLAs members organise, support and advocate for VSLAs.
  2. 323 VSLAs have received training in basic financial literacy and business skills. 3635 women have been trained on IGAs (income generating activities)/business skills in the period 01.01.2015 to 29.02.2016.
  3. 625 VSLAs with 18,602 members (82 percent women) have been linked with formal micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to access financial and non-financial services. 798 loans have been taken by VSLAs from MFIs, totalling 482,049,150 RWF (approximately 630,000 USD), enabling groups and members to invest in various businesses.
  4. 120 potential women entrepreneurs have so far been trained in enterprise development.
  5. Among the 120 above 22 have been linked with the national Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs through a mentorship program and got further training on advanced enterprise development/business skill.

CARE Rwanda engaged with the local government authorities in charge of business development at district level so that they continuously support VSLA women entrepreneurs to grow and sustain their business. For their business growth, women entrepreneurs at decentralised level get financial and non-financial services from either government or private institutions. Non-financial may be advisory and technical support provided by government/private technicians at local level. CARE organised a meeting that brought together the 22 women entrepreneurs and their mentors with the aim to link them with District authorities in charge of business startup, District Cooperatives officers, and private sector representative at District level, to discuss the progress of enterprise promotion among VSLA women and to advocate for enabling environment for women entrepreneurship.

Regarding financial services, VSLA members can benefit from Business Development Fund (BDF), that was established by the government to support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that need credits by applying different credit mechanisms, matching grants and direct lending. BDF was also established to build synergies among the key players in enterprise promotion and to create an enabling environment for citizens with good ideas that could turn into business opportunities.


Preliminary Progress Year 1

The overall aim of the programme component financed by Wilstar in Rwanda is to strengthen female VSLA members’ ability to establish and run small-scale businesses, to increase their income, and to provide the most successful entrepreneurs among them with access to formal micro financial investment loans. Contributing to this aim, Wilstar’s grant will also help establish further VSLAs and build the capacity of our local partner organisations to ensure the long-term sustainability of achieved results.

  • 18,602 members (82 percent women) have been linked with formal micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to access financial and non-financial services.
  • 798 loans have been taken by VSLAs from MFIs, totalling 482,049,150 RWF (approximately 630,000 USD), enabling groups and members to invest in various businesses.
  • 120 potential women entrepreneurs have been trained in enterprise development
  • 22 have been linked with the national Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs through a mentorship programme.

In presentations prior to the grant being given, the following indicators were suggested for measuring the concrete progress made by the project:

  1. Number of “village agents” trained as trainers. Village Agents (VA) are VSLA members with integrity showing a high level of understanding of the VSLA methodology. VA are chosen by VSLA members to continuously provide support and training to the VSLA and to form new VSLAs in the neighbouring area on demand-driven basis. They work as volunteers to monitor the VSLA activities to ensure quality standard of VSLA methodology by all groups. VAs are also key persons in terms of reporting of VSLA performance in the Monitoring Information System (MIS is the report system where all the data from the VSLAs are registered), they fill in the MIS forms and play the role of intermedia link between the VSLA and other stakeholders. All VAs received Training of Trainers on VSLA methodology, enterprise development and financial literacy and linkage to be able to train their respective VSLAs. Each VA is currently managing 12 VSLAs maximum for quality purpose and to avoid their work overload. The VA model provides cost-effective mechanism for scaling up delivery of the VSLA methodology, and has also proven to be an effective means of ensuring project outreach to new beneficiaries. Building a network of locally recruited and trained village agents is an effective strategy for the sustainability of VSLA management, ensuring that community members have the competency to continue organising activities and outreach after CARE scales down its presence. In Rwanda, there are currently 464 village agents in the eight districts covered by the GEWEP. Activities to strengthen the agents and the network continue with this four year project.
  2. Number of VSLA members trained in basic financial literacy and business skills. Over the four year period, the goal is to provide 30,000 members with this training.
  3. Number of VSLAs linked to formal micro-financial institutions (MFIs). Over the four year period, the goal is to link 3,000 VSLAs to MFIs.
  4. Number of VSLAs mentored and coached in enterprise development. Over the four year period, the goal is to provide 22,000 members (among the 30,000 above) with further entrepreneurship training to ensure their ability to receive formal investments.
  5. Number of VSLA members trained in advanced enterprise development. Over the four year period, 6000 members (among the 22,000 above) with high potential to develop their businesses will receive intensive business training and basic incubation support. 650 of the women with the best business ideas will receive further targeted business incubation over twelve months.

By the end of February 2016, the activities financed by the Wilstar/AWECO grant have achieved the following preliminary results¹:

  1. 464 Village Agents selected from the VSLGs members organize, support and advocate for VSLGs.
  2. 323 VSLAs have received training in basic financial literacy and business skills. 3635 women from have been trained on IGAs (income generating activities)/business skills in the period 01.01.2015 to 29.02.2016.
  3. 625 VSLAs with 18,602 members (82 percent women) have been linked with formal micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to access financial and non-financial services. 798 loans have been taken by VSLAs from MFIs, totalling 482,049,150 RWF (approximately 630,000 USD), enabling groups and members to invest in various businesses.
  4. 120 potential women entrepreneurs have so far been trained in enterprise development.
  5. Among the 120 above 22 have been linked with the national Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs through a mentorship program and got further training on advanced enterprise development/business skill.

    CARE Rwanda engaged with the local government authorities in charge of business development at district level so that they continuously support VSLA women entrepreneurs to grow and sustain their business. For their business growth, women entrepreneurs at decentralized level get financial and non-financial services from either government or private institutions. Non-financial may be advisory and technical support provided by government/private technicians at local level. CARE organized a meeting that brought together the 22 women entrepreneurs and their mentors with the aim to link them with District authorities in charge of business startup, District Cooperatives officers, and private sector representative at District level, to discuss the progress of enterprise promotion among VSLA women and to advocate for enabling environment for women entrepreneurship.

    Regarding financial services VSLA members can benefit from Business Development Fund (BDF), that was established by the government to support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that need credits by applying different credit mechanisms, matching grants and direct lending. BDF was also established to build synergies among the key players in enterprise promotion and to create an enabling environment for citizens with good ideas that could turn into business opportunities.

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