In rural communities in developing countries, most women have very limited opportunities to access important financial resources through banks. Access is one critical problem, being a woman -- and a high risk investment for banks -- is another.
The inability to open a bank account and borrow money at a reasonable rate can be financially and personally crippling. This is where community-based Village Savings and Loans groups have become valuable lifelines for women to create a better future for themselves and their families.
Oliver in Uganda is a wife and mother to five children, and before she joined her Village Savings and Loans group, she felt “useless” in her own home. “I didn’t know a woman could do something responsible in the household. I depended solely on everything from my husband,” Olived shared.
She did not have any way of accessing money. This was especially painful for Oliver when her children were sick, and she could not afford basic medicine for them. Her husband felt burdened by being the sole provider for such a large family, and they often argued over money.
Oliver heard that a Village Savings and Loans group was starting in her community through World Renew, and the excitement of the other women in the village motivated her to join too. There, the women learned how to save, and were encouraged to contribute their weekly small savings to the group’s fund.
Once the fund was large enough, the group could then use it to provide small loans, valued at only a few dollars, to each other. The amounts are small, but offered at a low-interest rate, they can have a high impact for women who have virtually no resources.
So Oliver began to save “little by little” by selling some of her own portions of cassava each week. Soon, she had a small amount of savings, enough to make her eligible to take out a small loan from the group. “[I] was then encouraged to borrow money from the group, I had some fear but decided to borrow 10,000 shillings,” Oliver explained.
With the money she borrowed, -- which amounts to $3.50 CAD -- she bought some produce to sell at the market for a higher price, and made a profit of 3,000 Ugandan shillings. She continued to do this, and over time, Oliver was making small, but noticeable profits at the market.
With her money, she was able to buy better, more nutritious food, like fish and beans, for her family. She even purchased a new shirt for her husband, who thanked her with a smile. He had become so impressed with Oliver’s money saving skills that he joined the Savings and Loans group too. Soon, they were working together on important projects, like making much-needed improvements to their home, and purchasing goats to improve their family income.
Today, Oliver is happy to share that joy and respect have returned to her home. She credits World Renew’s Village Savings and Loans group with saving her marriage. “Today there is no quarrel at home. Decision-making is shared. There is peace is here,” said Oliver. Also, due to her success as an entrepreneur and her skills in record-keeping, Oliver is now Secretary of her local Village and Savings Loans group, and she has gained new confidence in herself.
This International Development Week, Canadians are reminded that in order to work “together for gender equality,” women like Oliver need equal access to financial resources, and to have greater decision-making opportunities. World Renew continues to support equal access to important community resources and projects, such as the Village Savings and Loans program, and encourages people, regardless of gender, to make critical, life-changing decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities.
February 9th marks the last day of International Development Week. Thank you for joining World Renew this week as we celebrate our role in standing together for gender equality.
Most importantly, this International Development Week gave us an opportunity to share all the good that God has accomplished in people’s lives to help them create equality in their communities, despite living in challenging circumstances.
At World Renew, we welcome your support as we, through God’s grace, walk with people to grow in skills and knowledge to create a better, more equal, more prosperous future.