Impact of COVID 19 on the Participation of Rural Women in Savings Groups: Case of Umzingwane District in Zimbabwe.

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Impact of COVID 19 on the Participation of Rural Women in Savings Groups: Case of Umzingwane District in Zimbabwe.

*Givemore Moyo1 and Linnet Zimusi2
1Lecturer in the Department of Accounting Sciences, Midlands State University, Harare Campus
2Lecturer in the Department of Accounting Sciences, Midlands State University, Gweru Campus.
*Corresponding author

Received: 21 April 2023; Revised: 11 May 2023; Accepted: 16 May 2023; Published: 12 June 2023

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Abstract: The aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of COVID 19 on women in savings groups in rural Zimbabwe using Umzingwane district as a case study. The study adopted a sequential explanatory research design with the view of using mixed research approach. Data was gathered using questionnaires and interviews. The questionnaires were administered to 300 female savings group members and interviews administered to 40 committee members of savings groups in ward 3, 4, 5 and 14 of Umzingwane district in Zimbabwe. The study revealed that the COVID 19 pandemic reduced the ability of the savings groups members to generate income leading to low contributions, poor loan repayments and low levels of emergency funds. The study through Chi Square test found that there was a relationship between the marital status of female savings groups members and their ability to make regular contributions, with mainly married female members being able to make regular contributions. Chi Square test also revealed that ownership of a smartphone was not related to the ability of female savings groups members to regularly attend group meetings. The study also revealed that the measures that were adopted by savings group to ensure that female savings groups members continued to participate in savings groups were loan rescheduling, use of Whatsapp platform as a means of conducting meetings, acceptance of mobile money payments to collect contributions and loan repayments and assigning committee members to visit group members so as to collect contributions and repayments and to check on the members who were always absent. The study recommends that savings groups members should be taught to have diversified sources of income so as to be resilient to the effects of disasters such as COVID 19. The government and development agencies should link savings groups to formal banking so as to have access to diverse financial services which will make them resilient to the effects of disasters.

Keywords: Savings groups, Rural Development, COVID 19, financial intermediation, financial exclusion, Internal Savings and Lending Schemes, Village Savings and Lending Associations.

I. Introduction

Collins et al. (2009) highlighted that poor people in developing countries have limited access to financial services. Zimbabwe is one of such developing countries where the poor, according to Makina (2019), have limited or no access to financial services. This is in support of Mago and Hofisi (2016), who concluded that the majority of Zimbabwe’s adult population are financially excluded. Savings groups have become one of the most efficient ways of financial inclusion especially for the poor and rural communities (Jarden & Rahamatali, 2018), According to Sibomama and Shukla (2016), the majority of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas where there is no formal banking. Dermirguc-Kunt and Klapper (2012) stated that 23% of the adult population have bank accounts in Sub Saharan Africa, implying that 67% do not have bank accounts and have no option other than relying on informal financial services which are expensive and risky.