Empowering Women Through Village Savings and Loan Groups
Of the 23 women who make up the group Wiwanana, most are illiterate while only 3 have some formal education. The newest member of the group is 18 years old and currently in the 7th grade, and everyone in the group is encouraging her to finish secondary school. Yet the group counts itself as 25 members as two men were asked to join the group to fulfill the roles of secretary and treasurer because the women were not able to read or write, thus they were unable to perform the important duties of keeping track of finances or recording weekly meeting minutes. When asked about how challenges with illiteracy affect their lives, they all said that the need for their children to be literate was a major influence for them to send their children to school to have a better future. Every child of the women participating in this village savings and loans group attends school in the city, and the women are proud to announce that they make their children walk the 7 kilometers into town each day for their education.
Village savings and loans (VSL) groups are becoming increasingly popular across the continent, and the experience of this group is a testament as to why. The majority of the women in Wiwanana sell woven palm fronds to use as thatching for roofs of traditional houses to make a modest income. They make enough money to buy a small amount of food each day. When combined with the catch that their fishermen husbands bring in, this allows them to feed their families. But since participating in the VSL group, they have more money to buy other necessities. All of the women, except for the newest member who is unmarried and has no children, have used the money to buy school uniforms for their children. Some have purchased mattresses so that they no longer have to sleep on a dirt floor. Others have bought blankets to shield their families from the cool winter nights. All of the women agreed that their lives have drastically improved since joining the group.
The Primeiras & Segundas program works with a network of local partners to implement projects in the community. Ophavela is a local organization that works closely with P&S to help start and guide VSL groups in the districts of Angoche and Moma. This approach of giving resources and leadership to local organizations is part of the CARE-WWF Alliance’s efforts to build local capacity and ensure more sustainable livelihoods.