Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization


What is the name of your solution?


Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

WomenSave empowers unbanked women to meet financial goals and prepare for economic shocks with micro savings plans and digital financial services.

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

Worldwide there are 740 million unbanked women. As a result, they do not have access to financial products and services that can help them meet financial goals and withstand economic shocks. Traditional banking has failed these women for both demand- and supply-side reasons. Potential clients in last mile communities frequently fear formal financial service providers and lack the minimum requirements (cash, collateral) as well as the time to open accounts.

Meanwhile the banks consider this market segment prohibitively costly. To the extent they are even available, informal financial products and services largely fall short. For example, most Microfinance Institutions focus on credit, which is expensive and risky especially if the funds are for unprofitable purposes, like a new roof. Savings Groups provide one-size-fits-all loans at assigned times that do not necessarily meet the individual financial needs of their members, nor provide a permanent, safe place to save.

Fortunately, across East Africa, including in Uganda where 5 million women are unbanked, affordable and convenient digital financial services are widely available. Mobile money provides individual banking solutions at clients’ fingertips at a fraction of the cost. However, most women in remote, rural areas do not use it. Why? In many instances they are unaware that the technology even exists. And at a deeper level, they lack the tools, skills and confidence to utilize it. WomenSave wants to change that.

What is your solution?

WomenSave successfully and sustainably onboards unbanked women in East Africa to the digital economy and formal financial system. Moreover, we empower them to leverage it to improve their financial health. Our solution is rooted in behavioral science that shows that women are inherent savers and furthermore, that people are much more likely to save if it is for a specific purpose, on a regular basis and the funds are out of reach. We provide the human touch necessary to build capacity and trust to use existing fintech as well a product proven to increase savings: soft commitment plans.

We employ a team of Savings Officers, who are local women with business degrees and skills who work directly with clients. They offer group financial literacy training and individual financial advisory services. They teach clients how to open and use mobile money accounts and design customized soft commitment savings plans for goals the clients select (e.g., to buy a goat, pay school fees) as well as individual emergency reserve funds commensurate with their average monthly expenses. Once the plans are in place, Savings Officers send weekly SMS text deposit reminders to clients, who in turn make those deposits to their personal mobile money accounts. Savings Officers also send congratulatory messages at major milestones and when goals are met.

After two years of direct support from a Savings Officer, clients start turning to the peer groups that were established at the beginning of the program and volunteer Peer Mentors selected from them to address any concerns or questions. They continue to save and use mobile money with increased independence. After the third year, they formally graduate from WomenSave and rely exclusively on these groups and Peer Mentors to meet goals and save for emergencies.

WomenSave provides an accessible, affordable, customizable and safe financial solution otherwise unavailable to last mile women. And it fundamentally improves their financial health. Since our inception in 2020, we have reached over 1,200 women who have met nearly 2,500 financial goals and more than tripled their emergency reserve funds, improving female financial agency and resilience. We want to show banks this is a viable market segment, by showcasing their lifetime value and converting their savings behavior into an alternative credit score. Most importantly, we want to demonstrate to unbanked women that they can use the digital formal financial system with dignity and pride, for a lifetime of economic empowerment.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

WomenSave serves last mile clients in remote rural and peri urban areas of Uganda who are unserved or underserved by the formal financial system. Our average client is 44 years old and married with five kids. She has a primary school education and can read and write (although 40% of WomenSave clients self-identify as illiterate). Her primary source of income is agriculture, and she incurs daily expenses between $1 and $2. Generally speaking, our clients are unbanked, with only 3% who have bank accounts and 6% who belong to Savings and Credit Cooperatives (Credit Unions).

Our solution gives them the tools, skills and confidence to join the digital economy and improve their financial health. After three years of operations, WomenSave just completed our first ever impact evaluation with a random sample of 250 clients from our pilot project cohort in southwestern Uganda. Based on that we can say confidently that we are making direct and meaningful improvements to their lives.

From a financial access perspective, after the program, 98% of clients own mobile phones (compared to 61% before), 100% have their own mobile money accounts (compared to 4%) and remarkably, 83% do not need help using it (only 6% before). Consequently, 82% of clients make weekly deposits and the remaining 18% make them monthly, building creditworthiness.

At a deeper level, WomenSave improves female financial agency. Clients set goals, take regular steps to meet them and ultimately do. Our impact evaluation revealed that all clients meet at least one personal financial goal and 73% meet three or more goals in three years. As a result, they acquire livestock, send children to school, make home improvements and start and expand businesses, among other things.

In addition, financial resilience improves dramatically. Each year, average individual emergency fund balances roughly double, with an average balance of $26 after three years. This translates directly to an improved ability of clients to withstand financial shocks. When asked if they can come up with 1/20 GNI for an unexpected expense, after WomenSave, 99% of clients say yes (compared to 1% before).

Finally, as far as some other elements of economic empowerment are concerned, upon graduation from WomenSave, 99% of clients feel confident managing their finances (compared to 3% at the beginning), 99% make household financial decisions (compared to 59%) and 100% report meeting daily household expenses (only 30% before). These exciting results inspire us to reach more women with our impactful program.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

WomenSave is powered by our Savings Officers, local women with business degrees and skills who work directly with our clients. They are from the communities that they serve and uniquely qualified to build capacity and trust, which they do over time through group training and individual advising. As an organization WomenSave places a premium on treating clients as individuals, a luxury most last mile female clients do not have when it comes to accessing financial products and services. To uplift their voices, Savings Officers work one-on-one with clients to understand their personal financial goals and emergency needs, then design customized savings plans that correspond to them. They effectively build their confidence to identify and prioritize their financial needs and wants as well as their ability to meet them. For sustainable impact, WomenSave also relies on peer groups and volunteer Peer Mentors that research shows provide critical social and emotional support. At the management level, WomenSave Uganda is led by Amon Ariyo, a local authority in women’s empowerment and education, and globally the organization is run by Marie Mintalucci, a financial inclusion expert. Overall, 85% of our staff are local and 85% are women, positioning us to implement our solution with thoughtful local engagement.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Provide new ways to accurately assess credit-worthiness of MSMEs and individuals, including methods that reduce bias against borrowers who have traditionally lacked equitable access to credit

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?


In what country is your solution team headquartered?

  • Uganda

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model that is rolled out in one or more communities

How many people does your solution currently serve?


Why are you applying to Solve?

WomenSave is at an exciting stage of growth. We have a proven method and want to bring it to more clients and markets. But first, we want to improve efficiency so that we can offer the best possible product and service to the greatest number of unbanked women. To that end, we want to automate our deposit reminders and other similar features so that Savings Officers can focus exclusively on the human touch necessary at the client acquisition, training and advising stages. Also, we want to capitalize on the client data that we have regarding their savings history and convert it into alternative credit scores that could help banks assess client creditworthiness and clients prequalify for loans. In both instances, WomenSave would benefit from additional technology expertise.

To achieve our long-term vision of banks themselves serving these clients, WomenSave must make the business case. We need to grow our client base and continue to collect data on them. We need to explain to banks in very concrete terms what they stand to gain by reaching this market segment, namely how it will improve their bottom line but also be good publicity. Obviously WomenSave would benefit from funding to grow. Moreover, we would stand to gain a lot from additional expertise in the areas of Finance (pitching to investors), Monitoring & Evaluation (collecting/using data) and Public Relations (marketing strategy).

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Financial (e.g. accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Marie Mintalucci

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

WomenSave is pioneering a new method to onboard unbanked women to the digital economy and improve their financial health. We are not reinventing the wheel, but we are breaking new ground connecting unbanked women and existing fintech with personalized micro savings plans. Our solution stands out because it is an accessible, affordable, customizable, reliable and safe entry point to the formal financial system. And it is by women, for women.

WomenSave supports clients to open individual mobile money accounts. Unlike clients of traditional banks and many other informal financial service providers, ours can access accounts at their fingertips (on a mobile phone) and cash in cash out via a network of local agents, making our solution inherently convenient. Also, our approach presents a less costly alternative to loans, as our clients can earn rather than pay interest and experience little to no opportunity cost since they do not need to travel to make payments. Next, and perhaps most importantly, WomenSave empowers clients to articulate personal financial goals and design savings plans to meet them on their own terms and conditions. This compared favorably to Savings Groups, which have many social and emotional benefits, but on a financial level offer members one uniform product. WomenSave clients gain access to the amount of money they need when they need it and can maintain balances to respond to shocks. Finally, by participating in the program, WomenSave clients enter the formal financial system with low risk (no debt) and they build alternative credit histories, opening up a world of other financial products and services.

WomenSave has a bold vision to revolutionize the way banks serve women and moreover, the way women leverage their products and services to meet their financial needs. With the data from our program, we plan to demonstrate to mobile money banking partners that in the aggregate, our clients can and do deposit large sums of money leading to an impressive projected lifetime value. With some changes to their agent networks and onboarding processes, namely adding more local women and offering soft commitment savings plans, we believe they can easily reach this target demographic and maintain a sizable return on investment. Additionally, our data, which includes the frequency and value of monthly deposits, will be the foundation for alternative credit scores that these banking partners can use to determine creditworthiness. Ultimately, by making the business case to mobile money banking partners that this is a viable market segment and showing women that they can use banks to meet their needs, WomenSave is serving as a critical missing link and paving the way to exponentially increase women’s economic empowerment.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

WomenSave has an ambitious set of impact goals. First, we want more unbanked and underbanked women to use mobile money. Our goal is to reach 2,000 women next year and 10,000 in five years. Next, we want them to use it to improve their financial health. We want clients to set, work toward and meet personal financial goals, improving female financial agency. Based on our experience to date, we expect to see clients set goals to buy livestock, send kids to school, purchase consumer goods, make home improvements, start and expand businesses and get healthcare, among other things. We want 1,800 goals met next year and 9,000 over the next five. In addition, we want clients to improve their ability to withstand financial shocks by establishing individual emergency reserve funds. The goal is for them to save the equivalent of one month of average expenses, improving female financial resilience.  We want 2,000 funds established next year and 10,000 in five. Our ultimate goal is women’s economic empowerment (WEE). As such, we want each client to meet at least one WEE indicator by the end of three years, sustainably improving their financial health.

To achieve these goals, we plan to hire additional Savings Officers to onboard new clients. We also want to improve our efficiency. We plan to introduce automatic and/or peer group deposit reminders to free up Savings Officer time for additional client acquisition, training and advising. Ideally, we would like to bring our average annual cost per client below $30. This will be important for us to reach more women faster but also to build the business case to banks that this is a profitable market segment. Five years from now we want to have a formal partnership with the mobile money banking partner in Uganda to reach hundreds of thousands of unbanked and underbanked women, with female agents and custom soft commitment savings plans. Over the next two years, we have an interim goal of designing and implementing a pilot partnership program with the bank. As part of that program, we plan to start calculating alternative credit scores for WomenSave clients. These will be based on available data regarding savings deposit frequency and values. Hopefully these scores will inform a process of prequalification for business and other investment loan opportunities. Overall, WomenSave wants to grow to a point where our model is attractive to banks in Uganda and eventually, other markets too, allowing all women access to products and services that can help them meet financial goals and withstand economic shocks.

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

To measure progress toward our goals, WomenSave has a robust Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning (MEL) framework and associated key performance indicators. They include:

·      Outputs

o   # women trained in financial literacy

o   # women individually financially advised

·      Primary Outcomes

o   # women who open mobile money accounts

o   # women who create savings plans

o   # women who make a monthly deposit and/or withdrawal using mobile money

o   # women who can use mobile money without help

·      Secondary Outcomes

o   # of women who meet a personal financial goal

o   # of women who finance their emergency reserve at 50%

·      Impacts

o   # women who feel confident managing their finances

o   # women who can meet daily household expenses

o   # women who do not experience seasonal hunger

What is your theory of change?

The WomenSave Theory of Change starts with financial education activities, which include training groups of clients in financial literacy and offering one-on-one financial advisory services. Outputs include increased financial knowledge, with monthly budgets and savings passbooks, increased digital financial access, with individual mobile money accounts, and increased financial skills, with custom soft commitment savings plans and emergency funds. WomenSave employs several gentle behavioral nudges to keep clients on track toward their savings goals, such as deposit reminders, congratulatory messages and regular peer group meetings.

At the primary outcome level, clients improve their digital financial capability, as evidenced by more mobile money use, and they improve their financial behavior, as evidenced by more savings. At a secondary level of outcome, clients improve their financial health, specifically financial agency as demonstrated by meeting personal financial goals (e.g., purchasing livestock, paying school fees, making home improvements) and financial resilience by increasing their individual emergency funds.

Ultimately, WomenSave economically empowers women. We just completed our first ever impact evaluation, which revealed large gains several areas. For example, WomenSave clients graduated with improved household conditions, increased levels of financial freedom, financial control, financial security and financial confidence. At a more macro level, our evaluation also showed higher levels of trust in digital financial services and household support for women saving.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

WomenSave combines two groundbreaking technologies. First, mobile money. These digital financial services are the product of partnerships between mobile telecommunication companies and commercial banks. They are available on smart and non-smart phones alike and allow clients to make deposits, withdraw funds and transfer money, among other services. Since they reduce the cost of banking so dramatically, they unlock the possibility of unbanked and underbanked women accessing individual financial products and services for the first time. In the past, financial services providers that wanted to reach last mile clients generally put them in groups to receive loans, to reduce cost and risk. It was an important innovation of its time and one that dramatically improved financial access across the globe. But now there is improved technology that presents an opportunity to reach unbanked populations with tailored solutions. Unfortunately, millions of people in this market segment remain left out.

Enter our second technology: commitment savings. These plans are a financial product whereby clients define a specific goal, target amount and deadline. Then they make a payment schedule, deposit funds accordingly and do not touch the money until the goal is achieved. There is a broad evidence base that shows the power of these plans. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) in the Philippines showed an 82% increase in savings balances. A more specific study in Kenya showed 66 – 75% more spent on preventative health. And an RCT in Malawi among tobacco farmers demonstrated large positive effect on deposits. WomenSave research similarly shows that these plans help women meet financial goals and prepare for economic shocks. As such, they are the perfect tool to empower unbanked and underbanked women to use mobile money to improve their financial health with dignity and pride.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Behavioral Technology
  • Software and Mobile Applications

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Uganda

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Uganda
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?


How many people work on your solution team?


How long have you been working on your solution?

3 years

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

WomenSave takes diversity, equity and inclusivity seriously. Starting at the Board of Directors level, we are 80% female and 40% African. Our staff are 85% female and 85% local. All employees must treat all persons without distinction on the basis of race, gender, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, marital status, age or disability. Philosophically, WomenSave exists to uplift voices that all too often go unheard.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

WomenSave is a nonprofit organization. We see ourselves as the critical missing link between unbanked and underbanked women excluded by the formal financial system and existing digital financial services (mobile money). We offer our clients our signature suite of products and services, including training, advising, custom savings plans and deposit reminders free of charge. They open and use individual mobile money accounts for which they pay small transaction fees. Once the market failure is corrected, by demonstrating to banks that this is a viable segment and showing these women that they can and should use digital financial services to improve their financial health, we expect to work ourselves out of a job.

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

WomenSave is funded by individual donations as well as corporate and foundation grants. We plan to continue to fund our work this way to grow our client base and invest in efficiency upgrades. We also plan to design and implement a pilot project with the mobile money banking partner in Uganda. Ideally this will pave the way for the bank to adopt our WomenSave method of onboarding unbanked and underbanked last mile women with female agents and custom micro savings plans. Our hope is that our experience in Uganda will serve as a blueprint for other country markets.

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

To launch our pilot, WomenSave received individual donations. Since then, we have received institutional grants from The International Foundation and World Centric. In 2021 we raised $28K in revenue, in 2022 we raised $78K and this year we hope to reach $100K. Early on, WomenSave caught the attention of the mobile money banking partner in Uganda. They were particularly impressed by the volume of deposits our program generated. Over time, we have continued to build that relationship, sharing results and future plans. We are hopeful that this will lead to a formal partnership down the road.

Solution Team

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