VSLAs and cooperative societies for Ethiopian women

Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs) in Ethiopia are critical to enabling women living in poverty to increase their financial skills, gain access to and control over resources, and generate economic opportunities and income which in turn contribute to poverty reduction and women empowerment. 

VSLAs are formed with a self-managed group of 20-30 individuals that meets on a regular basis to provide its members a safe place to save their money, to access loans, and to obtain social or emergency insurance coverage.  It is common that each member will contribute a specified amount of money to a savings pool and after a certain amount of capital has been accumulated, the accumulated fund becomes a readily accessible source of credit for members. 

Useful resources for VSLAs

angle-left Cooperatives (from Women Development Groups)


The Government of Ethiopia is working in a similar way to reach out to women by organizing them in a small group called ‘Women Development Group’ (WDG). A group of 27-30 women can form a Women Development Group of their own if they like to act jointly for their common benefit. The government may then give accreditation after a thorough assessment. Through training and additional support from government, these WDGs can form their own cooperative societies.

The formation of a cooperative society requires at least 50 members or two WDGs (the required number of members is lowered to 10 for women and persons with disabilities depending on the nature of their work). Cooperative societies are required to form a managing committee to look after the management of the society and implement members' decisions.They must have the common objective to serve each other by forming a society, and have to contribute capital in form of initial share capital and decide to start;

  1. a category of service delivery or
  2. a production or
  3. both a service delivery and production of goods

Principles of  cooperative societies [Article 5 of cooperative societies proclamation 985/2016]

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic control, one member one vote
  3. Autonomy and independence
  4. Promoting economic activities
  5. Promoting education and information technology
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for the social and ecological environment

The government encourages the establishment of cooperative societies, and these societies enjoy several benefits. However, in order to get those benefits the cooperative society must register with requisite information. To get registered as a cooperative society, the society shall submit the application together with the following [Article 10 of cooperative societies proclamation 985/2016]:

  1. minutes of the founders meeting;
  2. the by-laws of the cooperative society in three copies;
  3. names, address and signature of the members of the management committee of the cooperative society;
  4. name, address and signature of the members of the control committee of the
    cooperative society;
  5. a detailed description which proves that the registered members of the cooperative society have met the requirements for membership in accordance with the provisions of this Proclamation and the by-laws of the cooperative society;
  6. if the cooperative society is of a higher level than the primary cooperative society, the name and address of the member primary cooperative societies and signature of their representatives;
  7. three up to five years action plan of the society;
  8. documents showing the amount of initial capital of the society and the capital that has been collected and deposited in a bank account, if there is no bank in the area, that it has been deposited in a Financial Institution where the appropriate authority has designated;
  9. the description of the place at which the cooperative society operates;

Note: In order to be qualified for membership of a Cooperative Society, a person must: 

  1. have attained the age of 18 years;
  2. be resident within the same district or ‘woreda’ as well as within the society’s area of operation as described by the by-laws of the society
  3. members must have same objectives

If the registering agency is satisfied that the application has complied with the provisions of the proclamation, and the by-laws are not contrary to the articles of the law, the cooperative society will be registered. The agency then forwards to the society a certificate of registration and approved copy of the by-laws of the society within five consecutive working days.

Contact information

For further information on how scale up and register a WDG to a cooperative society you may contact the following address:

Federal Cooperative Agency (FCA)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: +251 115573448
Website: https://www.fca.gov.et