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Women’s Collective Voice: CARE West Africa FY2017-21 Report

This report takes a look at the evolution of Women on the Move in West Africa from FY17 to FY21. We will demonstrate Women on the Move’s impact and successes to date, educate on how those successes have built over time, look at the evolution of groups and how Women’s Collective Voice has become a powerful, impactful tool to lead transformation for gender equality in West Africa.

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Executive Summary

Women on the Move is a CARE regional strategy to mobilize existing savings groups (previously referred to as Village Savings & Loan Associations, or VSLA) in West Africa to serve as a platform for women and girls to assert their basic rights. These groups have been a foundational CARE approach to women’s economic empowerment.

Evidence has shown that these VSLA savings groups, over and above their economic impact on women, also transform the interactions between women and their communities, as well as help promote gender transformation.

It’s simple, when women are able to come together in safe spaces, they gain confidence in their individual and collective voice… they then have the power to bring about change for a more equitable world. When we network, or connect these groups together, we increase their legitimacy and credibility to develop strategic alliances with local and national Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), all creating venues for women to raise their voices and fight for gender justice.

Building upon this idea of collective voice, Women on the Move in West Africa changed the name from savings groups to solidarity groups. Because it’s not just about economic solidarity but building social and political solidarity too.

The Women on the Move FY20 impact goal is for 8 million women and girls to experience positive change in their socio-economic status and be able to influence change at all levels of their lives. Our key pathway to doing this is the networking of Solidarity Groups, amongst themselves, and with CSOs supporting women’s rights.

It’s what we call Women’s Collective Voice.

And we’re seeing its impact! By the end of FY2020, Solidarity Groups in West Africa with CARE Women on the Move had directly supported positive impact on 1,649,433 people.

The Women on the Move strategy works with private sector, regional intergovernmental bodies, national women’s movements, and international organizations to scale our impact.

We’ve been multiplying this impact over the last five years by focusing on:

  • Advocacy to influence policies and programs. We’ve seen dramatic increases in women’s participation in regional body programs and strategies. Women on the Move has also collaborated with peer organizations at national levels to encourage and motivate governments to adopt the VSLA savings group model into their national policies, strategies or programs.
  • Scaling and adapting proven models. Partnerships such as the Mars Wrigley Confectionery brand which started in Côte d’Ivoire and worked with Solidarity Groups to support the financial skills, guidance and resources of female farmers, has now expanded to all countries where Mars and CARE are active. This work with Mars will influence (and is already influencing) our work with other Cocoa sector actors: e.g., Mondelez adopting the UN Sustainability Goals into its gender strategy. Mars initially pledged to reach 75,000 women with sustainable cocoa interventions, but now estimates to have reached approximately 112,500.
  • Supporting social movements and women’s voice and leadership during crises. This means increasing women’s voice to address key issues in their communities such as child marriage and girl’s education. We also use the Solidarity Group network to support CARE’s Women Lead in Emergencies (WLiE) initiative, integrating WLiE into its regional strategy to respond to COVID 19. This brought together 619 Solidarity Groups with 17,898 women to increase their leadership and participation in COVID emergency responses.
  • Connecting Solidarity Groups across countries and regions. We are actively linking Solidarity Groups across regions and even borders. For example, in Mali, women members of Solidarity Groups and networks came together in December 2017, to develop a Framework for their 2025 Vision. This network is now an integral partner with the country’s Ministry of Women, Empowerment and Family, which brings together members of the platform and representatives from other government ministries.
  • Lastly, Women on the Move has advanced West African women’s access to formal financial institutions, allowing them to further advance their economic, social and political presence within their communities. Many CARE West African Country Offices have helped linked Solidarity Groups to formal financial institutions and other banking systems. And, four governments in the region, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Niger have adopted and implemented the VSLA savings model into their strategies, policies or laws.

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