CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF ADOLESCENCE (CSA)

Sustainability through social economic empowerment

Article By Ann Mukami

Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) play a critical role in the diversification and increase in women’s income by making access to commercial loans easier through self-managed and self-capitalized savings groups that use members’ savings to lend to each other. The Big Sisters under the SAFIRE program embraced this model after receiving training on the same, facilitated by KMET. The approach proves to be more effective and suitable compared to the previous. Prior to VSLA, our big sisters’ group had a merry-go-round (Chama) where members would receive a certain amount every week. This model didn’t work as others would drop off after receiving money on their turn, leading to disruption of the cycle and almost collapse of the group, also we never had a constitution in place to govern our group organization and interaction. The remaining members of the group pondered on exploring a different model of savings. KMET with over a decade’s experience in social economic empowerment including financial management offered three days of training to our big sisters’ group on VSLA. All members of the group were impressed with the model and expressed certainty in its success if we all got committed to it. Interestingly after the training we went ahead and formed a name for our group, we now refer to ourselves as Pretty Savers. This made it appear more organized, now we are all in it and the operations are seamless. As a big sister and member of Pretty Savers, I can attest VSLA is effective and promising. The model allows everyone to save on a weekly basis an amount they can for the period of 6 months. The constitution that we drafted and approved allows members to take loans to start up their own business or any other income-generating activity and return the amounts with interest within a stipulated timeline. The total amount collected is then distributed among members at the end of the cycle, based on individual weekly contributions (shares). This has since strengthened members’ cohesion and resilience, members also report, this as a great opportunity to sustain their Big Sister sessions beyond the program timelines through support from the ecumenically empowered sisters. The big sisters also went further and established a social fund to protect members from financial difficulties which come with unseen life adversities such as illness. Members contribute 30 shillings weekly; the money is used in supporting affiliates upon need with the guidance of the constitution. The big sisters also went further and established a social fund to protect members from financil difficulties which come with unseen life adversities such as illness. Members contribute 30 shillings weekly; the money is used in supporting affiliates upon need with the guidance of the constitution. Indeed, our community-based intervention can go a long way not just in the provision of comprehensive ASRH information but also linkage to accessing non-judgmental reproductive health services

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