Women, Microfinance and Savings: Lessons and Proposals

What informal savings mechanisms do women use?

This paper derives lessons from informal finance for the design of formal savings services that respond to the development issues that confront women.

Although microfinance often targets women, microfinance product design rarely addresses gender-specific aspects of financial services use. As a result, few programs have developed concrete ways to meet the distinct demands of poor women for saving services. Informal savings mechanisms, such as door-to-door deposit collectors, Rotating Savings and Credit Associations and Annual Saving Clubs, are an important source of lessons on how savings services can serve poor women.

The paper proposes two savings services designed to address women's needs. They include safe-deposit boxes and matched savings accounts for healthcare or education. It states that:

  • Safe-deposit boxes allow women to maintain independent savings;
  • Safe deposit boxes, boost women's freedom and bargaining power within the household and cushion women from the shock of divorce or abandonment;
  • Matched-savings accounts structure saving and promote peer support among women savers;
  • Matched savings subsidize savings targeted to women-specific concerns such as healthcare or school fees.

About this Publication

By Schreiner, M. , Vonderlack, R.