In recent months Join My Village has introduced an exciting new initiative – exchange visits for our Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA). These are visits that take place among VSLA members under Join My Village as one way of increasing confidence of participating members that what they are doing is worth showcasing.
During the visits, members from different groups meet each other, share their experiences, stories and lessons learned, and also share a meal! VSLA members are given the opportunity to discuss challenges they face and share their solutions. I remember one member from Madalitso VSLA from Mkumbaleza Village wanted to find out how fellow members survive the lean periods during the hungry season” and how do they come up with different small businesses ideas and plans. One of the VSLA members from Chigodi told me that, prior to her exchange visit, she was unable to mould a clay pot properly, but she was taught to do so by her fellow VSLA member and now she can make pots and sell them.
Gladys, a member of Tithandizane VSLA, is animated when she tells me “The business I set up through the VSLA loans was to sell material. It was very exciting to see women from other VSLAs who have bought my material and turned them into clothes, such as VSLA group uniforms, as part of their own VSLA business. We even decided to work together on my next order of material, so that both our businesses can benefit”. Very rarely do Malawian women from these villages have opportunities to travel and have fun, and these visits have opened windows of opportunity to women like Gladys.
VLSA groups like Chiyanjano have used exchange visits to spread the word of their special initiatives, such as the way they use their group savings to assist needy children in their community.
It is wonderful to watch these women share their success stories and to learn from each other. I think we can only expect to see more progress from our VSLA groups in the future thanks to these exchange visits.