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DreamSave: Increasing & Digitising Women’s Access to Finance

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Across the world, women often have less access to technology, mobile phones and the internet compared to men.

In fact, the majority of the 2.9 billion people who remain unconnected are women and girls. But evidence suggests that digital inclusion goes hand in hand with economic empowerment and gender equality.

Using digital banking or having access to money via a mobile phone allows women to take control of their own finances.

Many of the women who join our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations programme are entrepreneurs, but they don't have access to finance, making up some of the 2.9 billion people on the wrong side of the digital divide - and they lack the financial literacy to turn around sustainable profit and build savings. In our programme, they can change that. 

In their groups of 25 women, women form a savings group known as a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). They meet regularly to contribute small but significant amounts of their earnings to a pooled savings fund, traditionally stored in a lockbox. The VSLA uses their combined savings to provide loans to individual members, who then pay it back over time with a small amount of interest. This is a life-changing, sometimes life-saving, resource for the women we serve. It enables women to take loans for things like emergency medical fees, to rebuild their homes after flooding, or to invest in their businesses. 

Women for Women Rwanda supports over 1000 of these savings groups, reaching 25,000 women. The VSLAs are highly trusted by members, but there are limitations around bookkeeping, financial management and avoiding human error. Through an innovative approach by Women for Women Rwanda in partnership with the DreamStart Lab, we have now digitised VSLAs to address these limitations.

Women are transforming their livelihoods through entrepreneurship, savings and investments – and some have been trained as 'Digital Champions', gaining advanced skills on the app to troubleshoot and manage their group's financial transactions and meetings.

Marie Claire and VSLA group in Rwanda using the DreamSave app. Photo: Women for Women Rwanda
Marie Claire and VSLA group in Rwanda using the DreamSave app. Photo: Women for Women Rwanda

Marie Claire's Story

After graduating from our year-long Stronger Women, Stronger Nations programme, Marie Claire became a member of VSLA.

Thanks to savings I had and a loan from my VSLA, I was able to purchase 20 sewing machines to start a tailoring business. I employ 20 young women and together we are a local supplier of school uniforms.

I am also trained and serve as a Digital Champion. I provide technical support for bookkeepers using the DreamSave app.

In addition, this project has enhanced my confidence in using technology as I now know how to use the DreamSave app and am able to support bookkeepers whenever they make errors while conducting meetings and entering data in the DreamSave app. I am very happy to serve as a digital champion. 

The money I get from my business enabled me to financially contribute to the development of my family, which also makes my husband proud.

My hard work and success in my business have inspired other young women to follow my way.

Viviane’s Story

Viviane has long been affected by poverty, but joining a savings group and using our digital VSLA helped her transform her life.

After joining my local VSLA, I received a message through the DreamSave app about my savings progress.

Women in our programme in Rwanda using the DreamSave app. Photo: Women for Women Rwanda
Women in our programme in Rwanda using the DreamSave app. Photo: Women for Women Rwanda

Before, poverty impacted my access to healthcare and the ability to pay for new clothes and my children’s school fees. My situation lowered my self-esteem and I felt isolated without hope for the future. 

I joined a savings group and the information from DreamSave led me to start a pig farm. To initiate this idea, I borrowed 40,000 Rwf (~29 GBP) from the savings group to buy a pig, which gave birth to six piglets that I sold for 15.000 Rwf (~10 GBP) each. From there, my farming business evolved.

Soon, I went from earning the wages of a labourer to receiving around 65,000 Rwf (almost 50 GBP) each month.

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