‘Saving for Change’ is a concept that is being developed in Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso to enable women to escape from poverty by saving the few financial resources that they have. The aim is to teach them to manage their money sustainably rather than give them a handout. When this is put into practice, the sense of empowerment that develops among women’s groups is clear to see. An important part of the concept is enabling group members to keep each other accountable.
A Saving for Change project is being carried out by ACTS-Ministry Burkina Faso with support from Oxfam and the Stromme Foundation. For the savings group to succeed, roles and responsibilities are assigned to the women, whether they are community members or leaders. The group members’ responsibilities are as follows:
- To take an active part in meetings, and not to miss them.
- To save. This means setting aside a weekly amount that has been agreed beforehand.
- To help one’s neighbour. As very few of the women are literate, they rely on oral communication and their memories, so they always sit in the same position at the meetings. Each member watches over the neighbour on her right and makes sure that she attends the meetings. If the neighbour is not at a meeting, the member will ensure that the neighbour has sent in her weekly savings. The member should know the amount of the loan that her neighbour has taken, the date it should be repaid and the interest due. She is also responsible for visiting her neighbour to see if she is sick or is facing some kind of problem.
As the project involves women who are mainly non-literate, the role played by each woman is significant. Members are stimulated because they have to account not only for themselves but also for other members of the group. This sense of accountability among the Saving for Change groups is very important for the groups to work well.
As the women carry out their roles and responsibilities, they learn business principles. For example, they need to remember facts and figures and report during meetings on the sums that have been loaned and the interest that is due.
As a result, they realise that they do have value in the community and the ability to make choices about their own future.
The women welcome each other’s assistance in keeping the group on track. Within the groups, the women cannot ask the same question that Cain asked before God, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ In front of everyone present, each woman declares that she will help and watch over her neighbour, who is her sister, with the aim of benefiting the group and developing a sense of solidarity.
Armel Kabré is a Supervisor and Michel Sawadogo is Programmes Co-ordinator for ACTS-Ministry.
ACTS-Burkina Faso, 04 BP 8462, Ouagadougou 04, Burkina Faso.
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