Village Community Banks (VICOBA) is a grassroots group-based microfinance model designed to support viable income-generating activities for the poor, especially women excluded from the formal sector. Integration of microcredit programs with health services is reported to have improved health and social outcomes in other contexts. This study aims to understand the experiences of women involved in VICOBA programs in the Moshi District of Tanzania and to explore their views regarding the potential for integration of VICOBA
with health services, including health education.
We conducted detailed interviews with 16 women involved in VICOBA to explore their views on the VICOBA model, including potential for integration with health services.
Women reported increased savings and more support for their children’s education as a result of their involvement in the VICOBA program. With increased income, these women and their family members had better access to health care and improved housing and sanitation. In addition, the women felt empowered due to greater decision-making power and increased networking opportunities, including the sharing of information related to business practices and social welfare. They agreed the VICOBA program provides a unique opportunity to integrate microcredit with health education programs, which can lead to behavioral changes in health practices, promote uptake of preventive interventions and facilitate timely access to curative services among clients.
VICOBA improves the welfare of its clients and has the potential to be used as a platform for providing health-related services to members from hard-to-reach communities.