Saving Money and Changing Lives: The Impact of VSLAs
posted by: Justice Atiim on April 10, 2019
Each week, Tani Issahaku meets in a lahingoos—or women’s—group. Together, they have created a micro bank, where they can save money and take out low-interest loans. They even have a social fund, in case any of their members have an emergency.
This is one of the Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) that RAINS formed in the Nayorku community in 2013 as part of the Childhood Regained Project, run in partnership with Hope for Children and funded by Comic Relief. It has changed Tani’s life.
Tani did not know what saving was—let alone how to do it—before she joined her VSLA. To earn an income, she had no other options but kayaye (migration to an urban center to work as a head porter), firewood collection, or charcoal burning. As none of these were reliable sources of income, the education of her children came to a standstill. Her eldest two children were not able to progress in their education and married at a young age.
“Life was hell,” Tani said, “for me and my children who dropped out of school and got married.”
Due to socio-cultural beliefs that women are of lesser value than men in many communities in Northern Ghana, there are limited opportunities for women. Often, they do not own land or have access to resources. They engage in domestic or care work, which, despite being time-consuming and laborious, is unpaid and under-valued.
Thus, VSLAs have had a ground-breaking impact on women’s lives. To create them, RAINS forms groups of approximately 30 women and sensitizes them on VSLA processes. They are introduced to the concepts of savings, loans, and investing. With this know-how, they can pay for their children’s school fees, buy household necessities, and even take on business ventures.
Since Tani has joined her VSLA, she has taken loans to pay for her children’s school fees and health care. She can now cook a variety of food and attend social gatherings. She has even started a business selling fish and tomatoes. Neither her nor her children will have to participate in kayaye again. Before RAINS’ intervention, this would not have been attainable.
Further, VSLAs have also benefited children’s lives. As the Childhood Regained Project’s purpose was to reduce child exploitation and increase education attainment, it was critical to ensure that mothers were in a position to properly take care of their children. Without a reliable income, it used to be difficult for women to pay school fees when they are due. Now, they can simply take out a loan and pay it back at a later date.
Empowering women like Tani is critical. Not only does it transform her life on an individual level, but her household as well and contributes to attaining the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Northern Ghana, particularly SDG #1, #4, and #5 (respectively No Poverty, Quality Education, and Gender Equality).