PCI’s 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, PCI 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. PCI’s 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, PCI 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 PCI, while over one million women have been reached by the Government of Bihar and successfully adopted healthier sanitation behaviors.
In every corner of the world, we’ve seen that when women are economically empowered and take on leadership roles, communities are forever changed.
WE groups consist of 15-25 members (98% women) who form self-organized, self-managed groups that meet weekly to save money, take loans, invest in income-generating activities and develop financial literacy.
PCI’s community-based facilitators teach groups the processes required to effectively manage their informal bank. WE groups elect their own leaders, decide on their own rules and give each member an opportunity to practice public speaking. At weekly meetings, WE members save money, discuss issues of mutual interest, make group decisions, participate in life-skills training and take loans to make investments in small businesses, healthcare, education and home improvements. Loans are repaid with interest, which eventually gets distributed back to the members as ‘profit’ at the end of a one-year saving cycle.
Once the group has completed their initial training and are managing themselves independently, PCI provides training on basic business skills, linkages to market-based job opportunities and access to larger amounts of capital through banks or micro-finance institutions. This enables WE entrepreneurs to expand existing businesses or start new ones.
WE groups also become a platform for members to not only support each other financially but to raise awareness on important topics and act collectively to improve their lives and communities.
WE’s Impact Around the World
PCI has achieved remarkable results through the WE program.
- Today, there are more than 120,000 WE groups globally with more than $6.6 million saved, of which $6 million has been given in loans.
- Members of WE groups have experienced a 16 percent reduction in poverty, a 15 percent increase in their ability to feed their families and a 17 percent increase in making household decisions.
- In India alone, we are on track to reach 15 million WE participants by 2022, impacting approximately 60 million family and community members.
To ensure sustainability and security, WE groups are designed to gradually operate more independently with the goal of becoming a self-sustaining group that lasts beyond the program time frame. Because of this, the WE program will have an impact for decades—and generations—to come.