As our entry point into communities and the foundation of all of our development initiatives, our Savings Programme is built around community-based savings activities and focuses on the formation and mentoring of savings and credit groups as well as on providing life skills and financial education which improves people’s resilience and ability to plan and act.
A ‘Savings and Credit Group’ (SCG) comprises a group of between 10 and 25 individuals who save together by using a simple share system and can take small loans from those savings at a rate of interest agreed by the group. The activities of the SCG run in cycles of about 12 months, after which the accumulated savings and profits are shared out among the members according to the amount they have saved.
This simple yet powerful model supports and encourages financial discipline and independence, helps people to access credit at a low rate of interest, and to break out of the crippling cycle of debt and dependence on loan sharks. It also supports the growth of social capital in terms of the relationships of trust, support and reciprocity developed between group members. This aspect is absolutely critical in building a solid foundation for small businesses and other community development initiatives.
The programme focuses on the social and economic empowerment of vulnerable women in particular, enabling them to withstand financial shocks to their household and to care for their children. Capacity building training and the mutual support the members receive in the group empowers women to take control of their own lives and to begin to recognise their potential to play an important role in their community, leading to economic, social and political empowerment.