Women have long been at the heart of Africa’s informal, member-owned, rotating savings cooperatives – among the world’s oldest and most prevalent savings mechanisms. These cooperative associations form the foundation for CARE’s pioneering approach to microfinance. They are sustainable, self-funded credit sources at the village level, built by members through their own savings. CARE launched our first microfinance program in Niger in 1991 with a participatory, community-based approach. From the beginning, clients – predominantly women – defined their needs and put parameters around the process. In CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), each member contributes to a savings fund with.