Empowering vulnerable women in eastern Africa through innovative savings schemes

This project examines the role that innovative savings schemes play in empowering poor women to overcome economic vulnerabilities. Using applied research methods and data from Burundi, Kenya, and Uganda, it will explore and generate new evidence on the potential of these schemes to improve women’s welfare, business outcomes, and empowerment. It will also examine whether involvement in the schemes can transform gender relations at the household level and community at large.

More specifically, the project will document the most promising and innovative financial schemes within the target areas of the three countries; investigate the motivating factors for joining and remaining in savings groups (SGs), and how decision-making power relations influence women’s participation in SGs; examine the effects of SGs on women’s use of financial services, business activity, income, empowerment, consumption, and their ability to cope with economic shocks; evaluate the differences in penetration, operation, and impact of SGs between fragile and stable states; and recommend practical, policy-relevant results and directions on how to support and scale up savings schemes in Africa.

The research will evaluate the impact of financial services provided by World Concern, an international relief and development organization that has been supporting saving groups in eastern Africa for almost two decades. The Centre for Basic Research (Uganda) will lead the project, working in partnership with the University of Nairobi and the University of Burundi.

Project ID


Project status



30 months

IDRC Officer

Paul Okwi

Total funding

CA$ 599,600


Burundi, Kenya, Uganda


Employment and Growth

Project Leader

Fred Matovu


Centre for Basic Research

Institution Country


Institution Website