Improving Household Incomes through VSLAs at the Grassroots of Uganda

The village savings group is a community-based, informal financial system that has been practiced in Uganda for hundreds of years. In Uganda, there are more than 50 million people who live in rural areas. These people are not always able to gain access to financial services because of their location and their low-income level. Without access to financial services like savings accounts or loans, many of these women and youth cannot start their own small businesses or buy property to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. The situation has become worse due to the uncalled-for lockdowns and the existence of Covid-19 pandemic that threatened all social economic protection programs for the poorest populations in Uganda and beyond.

In order to raise awareness on how important it is for women and youth’s socio-economic growth and health, especially when it comes to dealing with sexually transmitted diseases and gender-based violence at household level and community pressure, embarked on introducing the Community Based Village Savings & Loans Associations (VSLA) program as a key part of the Vision and Mission of Wilmat Development Foundation ‘Enhancing Community Financial & Investment Literacy’. The goal of this program is to achieve financial inclusion to marginalized populations by providing basic savings and investment services to women and youth in rural communities where lack of access to financial services is commonly felt.

In 2018, WDF started its pilot program in two villages of Igunda and Lugolole, Mayuge District, Eastern Uganda which have been expanded to more than 30 villages in Mayuge District and beyond to date with over 50 Community own villages that seat on a weekly basis to Save & Borrow from the same pull of resources they put together to invest in low cost-High income generating ventures.

“Olunaku lwenatandiika okusevinga nafuna emirembe mubwenfuna byang” – Ms. Nabirye, Igunda Village, Mayuge District

WDF has continued to offer first hand Community Based Savings and Investment Knowledge through Community Champions who have continued to mobilize and empower other community members through home-based awareness campaigns and investment forums within the districts of operations.

Women (with one of our Global Volunteers-Ms. Vera) attending weekly Savings Meeting in Igunda Village, Mayuge District, Eastern Uganda.

Women solving complex issues through taking lead in ensuring proper accounting of every penny saved through the VSLA Approach.

“As an alternative, our team has been at the forefront of offering socio-entrepreneurial empowerment opportunities such as saving money for education and emergencies, setting up businesses, building a House or buying property. We have seen women building their own houses from the same pull of resources and others owning properties.” – Nakazibwe Rachel, Programs Lead, WDF

The VSLA Approach was redesigned as an Inclusion approach for rural women and youth in Uganda as a scheme that aims to ensure that every woman, young mother, adolescents, men and youth in the communities of Uganda, irrespective of their socio-economic background, receives quality financial and Investment education.

“In rural Uganda, more than 95% of the population continues to survive on less than USD 2 a day. In this context, WDF recognizes that if women and youth are denied access to financial services, they will be excluded from accessing economic opportunities.” – Simon Natima, Community Facilitator, WDF

Therefore if more women and youth were more educated then this would benefit the country greatly.

“Women’s savings is important in many ways, especially during times of financial hardship. Women tend to handle all the household expenses and are usually better at budgeting a bit extra than men.” – Matte Jockas, ED, WDF

Hence the need to empower more women and youth as an enabler to access advanced financial and investment services that would allow them to save money for emergencies and also invest their funds into other assets like property or business ventures.