The Power of Being a VSLA Member
For fifteen years, Alinafe Mwale stayed in her matrimonial home with little influence on decisions on the wealth she also sweated for. This means that it was only her husband would make the decision if she needed anything involving money despite her being trusted in helping source the money. As a housewife she did not have her personal source of money and this was the genesis of her status as a beggar in the home she called her own.
Traditionally, what this woman from Santhe Village was doing is normal. It is viewed as nothing of a problem if women – in the thousands – rely on their husbands for anything that needs money to acquire, a complete sign of economic powerlessness. But what happens then if a husband dies? This was my only question that took me and Alinafe into a long discussion which made me believe that Village Savings and Loan Association groups are a powerful tool of uplifting the lives of many out of poverty.
“Things took a different direction when my husband died in 2008. I knew I was in for it especially being a woman who has never run any business on my own. And worse still our first born son was about to graduate into secondary school,” said Alinafe who is a member of our future Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) where she holds the post of the group secretary. She lamented that 2009 was a difficult year for her and so many things went down including a small business the family relied on.
“I learnt about VSLA when Join My Village was being introduced in 2009 and so did not hesitate to join one of the groups. As the only head of the house, I had nobody to consult and so I out rightly registered my membership,” added the 36 year old lady and a mother of three.
Alinafe through her VSLA membership to our Future VSLA group has managed to support her first born son who is at Santhe secondary school with school fees. When she received her share last year she invested in farming where she had to pay casual labourers, buy fertilizer; buy school uniform and needs for her primary and secondary school children. Her language is that of hope, and you would easily conclude that she has been economically empowered as her VSLA group name suggests. “I am not worried of what to eat because my VSLA membership has already brought food on my table,” she said while flashing a smile imitated by her primary school daughter.
According to her, she expects to harvest more than 50 bags of maize and more than 30 bags of groundnuts each weighing 50 kilograms. She attributes all this to money she had been borrowing from her VSLA group and the shares she used. We smell a change in her economic fortunes!
With Village Savings and Loan Associations, women like Alinafe are being empowered economically, and a woman who is economically empowered nurtures a healthy family and becomes a mother of a healthy community. So far, Join My Village has facilitated the establishment of more 530 VSLA groups which interprets to more than 9500 members reached so far.