Women's groups and COVID-19: An evidence review on savings groups in Africa

Document Type

Working Paper

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This paper presents emerging evidence from studies in diverse contexts in sub-Saharan Africa —with a deep dive into Nigeria and Uganda—on how COVID-19 has affected women’s groups and how these groups have helped mitigate the gendered effects of the pandemic’s and the associated policy responses’ consequences up until April 2021. The synthesis presents evidence that savings groups found ways to continue operating, provided leadership opportunities for women during the pandemic, and mitigated some of the negative economic consequences of COVID-19 on individual savings group members. Savings, credit, and group support from other members all likely contributed to the ability of groups to positively affect women’s group member’s resilience during COVID-19. However, savings groups themselves often faced financial challenges because of decreased savings, which sometimes resulted in the depletion of group assets. These findings are consistent with a recent evidence synthesis on how past covariate shocks affected women’s groups and their members. We conclude the paper by presenting various policy recommendations to enable savings groups to achieve improvements in women’s empowerment and economic outcomes and research recommendations to address some of the current evidence-gaps on how COVID-19 is affecting women’s groups and their members.