Women’s Leadership in Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) model in Uganda

This study aims to investigate the barriers to women’s leadership roles in VSLAs in the Central, Western, Eastern and Northern regions of Uganda. A cross-sectional assessment in the formative phase will use a sample of 400 VSLAs to (i) analyze the overall situation of women’s participation in VSLA leadership; (ii) how this varies across different dimensions; (iii) what social norms are associated with women’s role in VSLA leadership and how do they vary across different ethnic groups; and (iv) what solutions are different actors implementing to enhance women’s leadership. An experimental method will explore if (i) a gender quota for women in management committees of VSLAs promote leadership skills among the female committee members; (ii) a female majority in the management committee reduce gender disparity in the VSLA decisions; (iii) a gender quota affect financial performance and members’ satisfaction of the VSLAs; and (iv) how does a role model intervention influence leader selection, assignment of roles, and their activities based on a sample of 600 VSLAs.

Researchers: Dr Munshi Sulaiman; Dr Tabitha Mulyampiti; and Dr Eve Namisango

Partners: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through BRAC USA

Timeline: 2020–2023

Status: Ongoing

Contact: Christine Nabulumba


The lack of female leadership in community-based initiatives affects group decision-making and generates a gender parity barrier in service delivery. Attitude towards women leaders and women’s leadership is relevant outcomes for both the leaders and members. Understanding the access to loans and participation of women members in VSLA decisions (as direct effect at VSLA and member levels) and continuity in participation of women in VSLAs and their satisfaction with the committee leadership (as a direct effect on members) is also important. Spillover effect through enhanced skills of the women leaders or through access to VSLA services for members should lead to women’s economic empowerment. This study will tweak the participation of women leadership in VSLA in different ways to see the consequent changes of aforesaid outcomes.

Research Questions

  1. What is the overall situation of women’s participation in VSLA leadership in Uganda?
  2. What solutions are different actors implementing (or considering) in order to enhance women’s leadership that can be rigorously tested for effectiveness?
  3. Does a gender quota for women in management committees of VSLAs promote leadership skills among the female committee members?


After the formative phase, the study will apply the randomized control trial (RCT) method. At the formative stage, the study will conduct qualitative research complemented by secondary information and structured primary data collection. A cross-sectional survey will identify the sampling frame (VSLA) for the baseline. This project will use multiple sources of data and triangulate them into final results – individual in-depth interviews (IDIs), focus group discussions (FGDs), key informant interviews (KIIs). At this stage, the survey will collect data from a sample of 400 VSLAs spread across the country. The tools will cover information at the VSLA level (including member and leadership composition) and interviews of 3-4 respondents from the leadership and 3-4 respondents from the VSLA members. The plan is to collect information from VSLA members through 48 FGDs that will be distributed equally by four regions (Central, Western, Eastern and Northern), two types of VSLAs (matured vs. new), men and women participants with three FGDs of each (4x2x2x3). KIIs will be conducted with practitioners who work on promoting the VSLA model. At the experimental phase, 600 VSLAs will be randomly divided into 150 clusters. A control arm will be 30% of the 150 clusters (45 clusters) totalling the respondents around 19,000 (600*31). Four treatment arms are (i) gender quota, (ii) gender quota & nudges, (iii) status quo, and (iv) status quo & nudges.


Study ongoing.