Empowering women in Uganda helps their whole family
Women’s Bank volunteers and steering group members visited Uganda in February, to see how projects funded by the network contributed to the lives of local women. During the trip, their small group saw 8 of the village banks sponsored by Women’s Bank in Sembabule in the Southwest, and Pader in the North.
Members of village banks receive a 6-months training, during which they start to save. Money is not handed out to members; trained local staff help them collect their first savings instead. Every woman in the saving group puts aside a previously agreed sum each week, which is kept in a carefully guarded box.
Members may lend from the group’s fund, i.e.: the village bank. There is even a social fund consisting of small contributions, which the group may decide to use for helping out members who lose their spouse, or fall upon other difficulties. Depending on the group’s decision, the might not have to pay anything back.
‘I used to worry a lot about say the school fees of my children. Now I know I can take up a loan for that. I also bought a cow with the help of a loan, and got profit from selling the meat.’
Lilian Kemigisha, Sembabule
How saving groups work
- Setting up a saving group: a six-month training is given in the community covering management, saving and lending and the making and developing of the group’s rules. In addition participants can learn about farming animals, processing the produce of the land and marketing. The training is attended by a developement worker. In Sembaule the groups received only training and counselling, that is no capital to start their activities.
- Meetings take place once a week. In the meeting everyone hands in their bit of savings, the amount of which the group itself has decided.In Sembabule’s groups the minimum was set at 2 000 Ugandan shillings (EUR 0.60) and the maximum at 10 0000 shillings (EUR 2.80).
- Loans can be taken of up to 3 times the amount of the member’s own savings. The interest rate is 5% per month (20% of bank rates). The saving group can determine the interest rate.
- At the end of a period determined by the group, the village bank’s capital can be used to a purpose agreed on by members.
- At each meeting a contribution of 200 shillings (EUR 0.05) should be made to the social fund. This fund can be used in cas of members’ illness, other difficulties, or to sponsor orphan’s school fees.
- Membership implies a fee of 200 shillings to be payed for delayed payments, and a fee of 500 shillings for absence without good reason.
‘Being a member of the saving group really improved my thinking. These days I’m pretty creative! My first thoughts in the morning go to what I can do to help my family that day.’
Text: Ulla Kärki
This article was published in Women’s Bank Annual Report 2012 (available in Finnish and Swedish).