Women’s resilience during crisis comes from connections with one another. Besides bringing women together in class for training, Women for Women International helps them form Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), allowing them to build credit with each other to invest in their businesses along with a safety net of savings.
COVID-19 shed light on the importance of savings for women and their families with the pandemic’s economic consequences. But it’s also highlighted that the bonds women form are deeper than just financial security as they support each other during difficult times and celebrating life events.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many graduates have maintained their VSLAs and friendships even after completing training. As they continue to share strength with one another, they share with you their experiences of building power together.
As part of my vocational training, which was sewing, the organization provided us with sewing machines. Our group still uses the machines to generate revenue but for me it is not enough. I have the right skills to run my own business. I believe that through the VSLA I will be able to buy my own sewing machines and start my business.
Our VSLA is still operational, and we meet regularly since most of the members live within the same community. As the president of the group as well as the VSLA, I always make sure we take care of each one by assisting in good and bad times with a support fund in our group.
I gain a lot from the VSLA and I need to maintain the same discipline as when we were in the program because of what it allows us to do: I used 300.000 Congolese Francs (about $200 USD) from our savings fund, which allowed me to buy three goats. And now, I have six goats.
Also, I can’t forget that when I gave birth, the people who accompanied me were my friends from the program, and some joined even though they live far away from my village.
The program was an opportunity to learn a lot of skills such as saving, which taught me to save my stipends. I saved enough and managed to buy a house for my family, and I am proud of Women for Women International for this achievement.
My personal relationship with others improved a lot in program and afterwards, with the group dynamic and support. As part of the group, we have a support fund which helps us in case we run into problems and provides psychological support when it comes to some members having a hard time in their life.
My group and I continue visiting each other on a regular basis during good times and hard times. If someone is in financial trouble, we have a special fund which supports hospitalization fees, funerals, marriages, and birth. (Pictured above in header)
Wearing a mask, not going to church, temporary suspension of the program, rise of food prices, lockdowns, and movement restrictions — these were brutal changes and unexpected, because with Ebola we could live normally by just regularly practicing good hygiene and hand washing. This was not the case for COVID-19. Our group work was affected since we could not meet in our VSLA of 25 women, so we had to split into smaller groups. But we have adapted with our means.
With the VSLA I benefited by buying 2 goats, and I am plaining to buy a sewing machine.
My hope is to see more women in the community become able to save and generate income so they can be economically empowered. Our group stays together as women. We started together, and we hope to go further together.
Our support within the group is as strong as when we were in the program. We bonded and always support each other when it comes to life challenges, in good and bad times. We always meet every thirtieth day of every month to discuss our progress.
The main change I am proud of from going through the program is the fact that I am no longer dependent on my husband for 100% of my finances. We make decisions together now.