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CARE Marks 25 Years of Village Savings & Loan Associations, Commits to Linking Women with Banks

The next frontier for CARE VSLAs is to link groups with formal banks, often using mobile technology.
The next frontier for CARE VSLAs is to link groups with formal banks, often using mobile technology.

ATLANTA (Sept. 20, 2016) — The poverty-fighting organization CARE announced a Commitment to Action today at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting to link 500,000 women to formal financial services across Africa and parts of Asia by 2020. CARE joins No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, Vital Voices Global Partnership, WEConnect International, and a coalition of over 30 core partners from the public, private, and multilateral sectors to address significant gender gaps and advance the gender equality targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

This commitment is part of a larger CARE initiative to economically empower 30 million women by 2020. It comes as CARE celebrates the 25th anniversary of its signature innovation in microfinance: Village Savings and Loan Associations, or VSLAs, whereby groups of 20 to 30 people save money together, earn interest and give each other loans. Since CARE pioneered the community-led concept in Niger in 1991, more than 200,000 CARE VSLAs have formed with more than 5 million members, nearly 80 percent of whom are women.

“For the past quarter-century, we’ve seen the impact Village Savings and Loan Associations have in the lives of women and communities around the world,” said Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of CARE. “As these groups mature, so do their financial needs, and it is through the formal financial sector that they can take an even bigger leap away from poverty and toward a better future. Our commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative will give half a million women that opportunity. We are proud to join a coalition of partners working to advance women’s rights and opportunities around the world.”

A combination of factors, including access, affordability and women’s unique financial needs, create barriers to formal financial services for 1.1 billion women across the globe. In an effort to break through those barriers, CARE in recent years has engaged banks and mobile network operators to drive VSLAs’ growth beyond informal finance and, often for the first time, into formal financial services. In doing so, CARE works closely with partners to build a more complete financial ecosystem that includes multi-national and community banks, credit unions, digital service providers and mobile networks. The benefits are substantial. One report co-authored by CARE indicates that, once linked to a bank, group members’ savings increase 40 percent to 100 percent. And profit per VSLA member doubles, putting more money in the hands of people to invest in their futures.

With the CGI commitment, CARE will strengthen that foundation, extending the model to at least five new countries (Burundi, Niger, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia) and scaling up efforts in seven current markets (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia). Wherever possible, CARE will utilize digital products and social enterprise models to better meet its commitment.

Coinciding with CGI, CARE is joining UN Women and Women’s World Banking to host a Sept. 21 panel discussion where global leaders will explore what actions are necessary to achieve fast and significant progress toward financial inclusion of all women. Following the discussion, CARE will host a reception celebrating 25 years of CARE VSLAs, whose benefits go well beyond improved finances. The groups also offer a platform for improving health, accessing quality education and rebuilding after disasters.

About CARE   

Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. That’s why women and girls are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve education and health, create economic opportunity, respond to emergencies and confront hunger. Last year CARE worked in 95 countries and reached more than 65 million people around the world. To learn more, visit www.care.org.

About the Clinton Global Initiative

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together 190 sitting and former heads of state, more than 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date, members of the CGI community have made more than 3,500 Commitments to Action, which have improved the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries. For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.​

About No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project

No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project is an initiative of the Clinton Foundation which aims to advance the full participation of girls and women around the world. Through a data-driven analysis on gender equality, an in-depth conversation series, innovative partnerships, and CGI commitments, No Ceilings builds an evidence-based case to chart the path forward for the full participation of girls and women in the 21st century. For more information, visit noceilings.org.

About Vital Voices Global Partnership

Vital Voices Global Partnership invests in women leaders who improve the world. Guided by the belief that women are essential to progress in their communities, it has partnered with leaders from more than 140 countries who advance economic opportunity, increase political and public leadership, and end violence against women. Programs in strategic planning, business, advocacy and communications build critical skills needed for creating transformational change at scale. Through its global platform, women leaders expand their connections and visibility, accelerating shared progress for all. Visit www.vitalvoices.org to learn more.

About WEConnect International

WEConnect International helps women-owned businesses succeed in global value chains. It identifies, educates, registers, and certifies women’s business enterprises based outside of the U.S. that are at least 51% owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women, and then connects them with qualified buyers. Visit www.WEConnectInternational.org to learn more.

Media Contacts

Brian Feagans, bfeagans@care.org; 404-979-9453

Holly Frew, hfrew@care.org; 770-842-6188

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