How village savings groups are transforming the lives of women in Zambia

“We used to have three meals every day and we didn’t have any problems at all sending our children to school. My late husband used to have a well-paid job and things went smoothly”, Rosemary Chanda narrated.

Everything changed after the death of her husband in 2017 who tragically died in a road accident, a story all too common in Zambia. After her husband’s family reclaimed all his property including 2 vehicles and a farm, she was left with just K5,000 (£300) and responsibility for her 4 young children.

The group savings box and record book

For the last two years Rosemary has struggled to provide for her family, often surviving on just one meal a day and only sending one child to school as she could not afford the fees. “Our lives were miserable, and we had no hope for the future”.

However, things began to change when in early 2019 she joined Kuyumayuma Women’s Savings Group which was set-up by local community-based organisation, Welfare Concern International and funded by the ATD Foundation.

cReating local entrepreneurs

Group members are given training on saving methods, business skills and entrepreneurship which has helped the women to save regularly, borrow from their groups revolving fund and repay loans at an agreed interest rate.

Rosemary Chanda with her successful peanut butter business

At the end of each saving cycle which runs for one year, the money is shared according to respective individual savings, plus interest earned from internal borrowing and fines. In addition to this, the group also decided to have a ‘Social Fund’ which provides grants to members who experience serious problems such as funeral and emergency medical expenses.

Group members have used their savings and profit shares to set up businesses such as peanut-butter making, small chicken farms, tailoring & sewing and local market food stalls.

investing in children’s future

Savings have helped many of the women feed their families and send their children to school. Rosemary said she can send all her four children to school and even has aspirations of one day earning enough to send her eldest to university. She expressed that seeing her children get a good education that she never had brings her great happiness as a mother.

The Kuyumayuma Women’s Savings Group singing at the start of a meeting

The Kuyumayuma Women’s Savings Group is also changing the lives of other women in the community. Women who choose to join groups like this become better connected socially within their village and are more likely to hold leadership positions. This allows them to have their say in community groups like Parent Teacher Associations (PTA’s), local councils and other regional authorities.

Welfare Concern International has helped set up 9 savings groups around Livingstone, supporting over 180 women.

Stories like Rosemary’s show that savings groups can be an effective and complementary approach to financial inclusion and to other development initiatives that can benefit the community as well as the country as a whole.

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