Economic empowerment is central to women’s ability to overcome poverty, cope with shocks and improve their well-being. When women realize their economic goals, whether it’s growing a business, improving their home or investing in training or education, they’re more resilient and able to provide for themselves and their families. Yet, globally, women continue to trail men in formal labor force participation, land and property ownership, and access to financial services, like credit and savings.
Approaches tailored to reach women must address and overcome the multiple obstacles that can leave women trapped in poverty. JCDS Women Empowered (WE) program focuses on increasing women’s skills, decision-making power and access to economic resources. Interventions including the formation of savings and lending groups and income-generating activities help women realize their financial goals and overcome persistent, gender-based barriers. As resourceful economic agents, women can take control of their future and support their families and communities.
HCDS global Women Empowered (WE) program supports the social and economic empowerment of women through community-based savings groups that help members save money, access credit, develop financial literacy and invest in income-generating activities. These women’s empowerment programs also promote skills building, self-esteem, access to information and resources, and community action that position women as confident decision-makers and leaders in their homes and communities.
WE group members gain public speaking and leadership experience, develop a greater sense of identity within the group, and use the economic empowerment gained through the savings and lending to save for the future and invest in businesses.
Over the last decade,HCDS has supported more than 1.3 million women with savings groups programming in 13 countries across Africa, the Americas and Asia. Women in our WE groups around the world have accomplished incredible feats such as purchasing farms on their own, mobilizing their communities for new classroom construction and installing electric utilities in their homes.
Across the countries we work in, where most of the working population relies on agriculture for income, drought and inconsistent rainfall can plague regions and leave smallholder farmers struggling to make ends meet. In times like these, women and children are hit the hardest. HCDS women’s empowerment groups help community members build their savings to weather these financial storms as well as give them a voice and community decision-making power to help prepare for and respond to these emergencies.
In India, HCDS partnered with the Government of Bihar to create The Parivartan Project. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, women are using their savings groups to share key information regarding maternal and child health sanitation behaviors—making a dual impact to address health issues while saving for their futures. Over 320,000 women in eight districts of Bihar have been impacted by this program directly through HCDS while over one million women have been reached by the Government of Bihar and successfully adopted healthier sanitation behaviors.