Studies of village savings and loan association (VSLAs) programmes in several African countries portray these initiatives as spaces that increase financial access for the poor, improve livelihoods, and provide members with social capital. Little is known, however, about their impact beyond increasing financial access. This paper shows that the benefits that accrue (or do not) from membership in VSLAs are mediated through networks of friendships and other social relations that predate the introduction of VSLAs. Based on ethnographic research on VSLAs conducted between 2012 and 2014 in Luwero District, Uganda, this paper examines women’s experiences in VSLAs, how social networks influence their decision to join a VSLA, and how VSLAs provide women an opportunity to exercise agency through utilizing their social networks in their community. In this way, they are able to challenge structural barriers to financial autonomy and control at the household level. This research shows that female participants utilize two kinds of networks in VSLA spaces: ‘silence-in’ and ‘silence-through’ networks. The findings underscore the influence of friendships and family relations in shaping the impact of externally initiated micro-level programmes such as VSLAs beyond financial inclusion, livelihood, and poverty reduction. The decision to join a VSLA, the desire for financial autonomy, the struggle against power dynamics, and unintended consequences are all negotiated within the VSLAs space through social networks.