Gender Lens Investment for Credit Unions Activity:
Developing a Gender Investing Framework and Toolkit

April 2020 - March 2022

Project Overview

USAID INVEST is supporting women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment through a range of innovative and blended finance approaches. These approaches include:

  • Promotion of gender smart investing.
  • Expansion of financial services to women through innovative channels.
  • Empowerment of women through workforce development opportunities and the strengthening of the enabling environment.

As part of this effort, World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) piloted a Gender Investing Framework and Toolkit (GIFT) for credit unions worldwide to address gender disparities within their portfolio to improve women’s access to financial services and products as entrepreneurs, while boosting their leadership within the credit union.

As community-centered financial cooperatives, credit unions are ideally positioned to deliver blended capital solutions that increase investment in women-led businesses.

According to UM-PAMECAS, a credit union network in Senegal, an estimated 51% of all credit union members within the PAMECAS network are women. WOCCU conducted a gender-lens entrepreneurial market assessment to design and customize a set of tools – within GIFT – that credit unions can adopt to better serve women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses. By creating better financial products and helping grow member businesses, credit unions promote positive social outcomes and increase financial returns.

WOCCU’s Gender Lens for Credit Unions (GLI4CUs) Activity encompassed the development, deployment, and starting the scaling of GIFT in Senegal and beyond. 

During this pilot, WOCCU refined GIFT and built capacity at the national and local levels to utilize the framework and toolkit and apply learnings into new credit methodologies. The pilot improved the readiness of credit unions to increase access to credit for women in Senegal. WOCCU led both national and local counterparts in Senegal, as well as its own Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) in the implementation of this activity.

Beyond the pilot credit unions, WOCCU will continue to disseminate and support the adoption of GIFT by integrating it into the set of technical tools offered to its global members and through its economic development projects.

Project Results

Based on applications and findings of GIFT assessments and activities with PAMECAS members and stakeholders:

  • New credit terms designed and piloted to decrease existing collateral requirements and increase ceiling amounts on loans for women entrepreneurs.
  • Two new credit products designed for testing based on the needs of women entrepreneurs:
    • Credit Nopale Jigueen (Lighten Women’s Load) is an equipment loan with a ceiling of about US $8,650 designed to help rural women entrepreneurs finance their businesses.
    • Credit Bawane (Growth, Prosperity) is a working capital loan with a ceiling of about US $5,187 designed for women entrepreneurs to finance their short-term accounts payable needs and avoid cash flow problems.
  • Specialized trainings developed and conducted to increase credit agents’ capacity to guide entrepreneurs, including on financing agriculture value chains and legal requirements for entity forming and formalization of businesses.
  • A Gender Dashboard developed with credit committee members to better track credit approval for women and increase awareness on disbursement time and performance data.

By the end of December 2021, the four pilot credit unions reached:

  • 1,960 new women members benefiting from financial products and services.
  • 401 new groups, each made of five micro and small women entrepreneurs on average.
  • Six new formal businesses registered by women entrepreneurs.

Featured Content

Blog: Credit Unions are Uniquely Positioned to Lead Gender Lens Investing

Report: A Credit and Finance Market Ecosystem Analysis in Senegal

Making Women the Heart of Finance in Senegal

Credit Unions in the Country

  • 98 total credit unions
  • 2,980,787 members
  • US $597,010,153 in total savings
Funded by

The information provided on this web page is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.