A community Savings Group in Uganda is helping women access loans to provide for their families needs and start up new ways of earning income. Photo by Mark Harwood, World Vision
It seems so easy and somewhat socially acceptable to complain about banks these days. Globally, accessing a formal financial institution is a luxury affordable to very few and simply having the ability to complain about our banks, puts you and I in the minority.
A few months ago I attended the inspirational weekly meeting of a women’s Savings Group taking place in the one of our Area Development Program’s in Uganda – a very bumpy 4 hour drive out of Kampala.
The World Vision Savings Group model focuses upon savings as accumulated capital, generated by the actual group members themselves. It is different to other Microfinance interventions where an external institution provides small loans to individuals. The group itself facilitates savings, insurance and credit services in a small-scale and sustainable way to the members themselves. These are people who are don’t normally have access to formal financial institutions, or are at the mercy of uncontrolled interest rates charged by informal moneylenders.
This small group of proud and empowered women from the Ugandan village of Kalongo ranged from young mothers in their 20’s through to great grandmothers in their 70’s. The Chairwoman told me how they had already saved a total of $500 USD in three months. They couldn’t stop smiling as they explained that already their individual savings exceeded anything else they had saved previously. Other members shared with me their individual visions for how they will invest their savings in their family’s future such as children’s schooling, improved nutrition and household repairs such as roofing and flooring so their child wouldn’t get sick as often.
As I watched in quiet admiration and appreciation, members were also given the opportunity to request for an interest free ‘welfare loan’ if the group collectively agreed the need warranted this. One woman was quick to raise her hand and explained how her children needed school books and she was embarrassed that she couldn’t provide them for her children. The group members had the chance to vote and it was unanimous to provide a welfare loan to this woman – I noticed the flicker of a proud smile for just a second on her face. Later, other members took out loans at a previously-agreed interest rate for investment purposes, such as expanding their small livelihoods by purchasing additional seed or fertilizer to increase agricultural yields.
For these women, this savings group is so much more than just their community bank – it provides them and their families greater choices in their day-to-day lives and an opportunity for a brighter future. It’s a wonderful thought to know that it is the savings of our Australian supporters that they entrust with World Vision that enables these women to perform and grow their own savings, leading to sustainable change.