Operational Research of VasYFille’s EA$E program: How EA$E groups helped caregivers’ capacity to support girls’ education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

VasYFille! created EA$E to help caregivers and community members increase their households’ financial capacity and improve their attitudes towards girls’ education. The program supported 787 groups across 5 provinces with 20-25 participants in each group for a total of 21,099 members. EA$E used a three-pronged approach:

  1. Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs): VSLAs provide a savings facility and affordable credit for borrowers, along with a return on their savings which exceeds those provided by local banks or microfinance institutions. Initially the program targeted parents of scholarship recipients, and later all community members. At program closure approximately 800 VSLA groups were functioning across five provinces, for a total number of about 21,000 members, alongside 174 additional VSLA groups which formed spontaneously. 
  2. Discussion groups for both parents: The series focuses on household financial well-being and budgeting, communication and negotiation skills. Themes related to gender roles, violence against women and socio-cultural norms towards girls were woven into sessions to shift negative attitudes and behaviors towards women and girls and increase the allocation of financial resources to girls’ education. 
  3. Business Skills Training – Competence, Entreprenariat pour la Formation de Enterprise (CEFE): An action-oriented and participatory training which is designed to help EA$E members invest their money in income-generating activities. The groups were given technical and strategic insight as to how to identify and develop business opportunities, manage funds, administer and operate a small commerce.

VasYFille! did not include an experiment or quasi-experiment to evaluate the causal impact of EA$E on girls´ education outcomes, but the IRC conducted an internal operational mixed-methods study to understand how EA$E affected the livelihoods of members and whether it increased their financial capacity and ability to support girls’ education . In January of 2016, the IRC administered a survey to 551 participants (370 women and 181 men) in 70 randomly selected VSLAs in 5 provinces, and conducted focus groups and interviews with 150 participants in 18 VSLA groups. The study did not include a control group, and therefore, results of the study are strictly descriptive and observational, aiming to shed light into how EA$E affected the livelihood of members and their ability and interest to support girls’ education. 

The findings of the study suggest that: 

  • EA$E responded to caregivers’ and community members’ needs to access financial services. Before the program, 42% of participants had never saved money, while 47% had never taken any loans. All participants engaged in saving, and 91% took loans from the VSLA. 
  • Approximately 68% of participants invested money from loans in microbusinesses and 62% in school fees. Similarly, 52% used money from the share-out to invest in business and 51% to pay school fees. To a lesser degree, participants used loans to cover health expenses (13%) and improve their household’s food security (14%). 59% of participants stated they had experienced a financial emergency, and 63% used money from the VSLA groups to recover from the shock without having to sell their assets. 
  • EA$E appeared to have helped participants keep girls in school through two ways: 1) Using money from VSLA loans and the share-out to pay for school fees, and 2) Using money from VSLA loans and share outs to invest in businesses opportunities identified through CEFE trainings, which in turn, increased their financial capacity to cover the costs of school. Participants who invested money from loans and share-outs in business activities were better able to enroll, keep, and re-enroll children in school the next year than participants who used the money to directly pay for school fees, or those who used it to cover health expenses and improve food security. Participants who engaged in collective enterprises were more successful at increasing their income—and consequently also better able to cover the costs of schooling— than those who invested funds in individual initiatives.

The Airbel Impact Lab at IRC is a team of researchers, strategists and innovators committed to the accelerated design, rigorous evaluation and cost-effective scaling of the most impactful solutions supporting people affected by crisis.