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How Village Savings and Loan Associations Empower Women in Chitipa

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Lucky Katundu

Twambilire (not her real name), is 29 years old, a mother of three, and a member of Mwalala Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). A Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) is a self-selected group of people, who pool their money into a fund, from which members can borrow.

The money is paid back with interest, causing the fund to grow. These saving and borrowing activities take place during a cycle of pre-determined length (typically 8 to 12 months), at the end of which the funds are distributed to members, in proportion to their total savings. Members are free to use the distributed lump sum as they wish, including reinvestment for another cycle. During their weekly meetings, the chairperson brief the group on the previous week’s borrowing status and for members to repay the borrowed money.

Twambilire relies on the VSLA to meet her financial needs such as paying school fees for her children and medical emergencies. The group also provides a special fund for funerals that occur in the village. As such, the group has helped her avoid borrowing money in form of usury, locally known as katapila, from business persons in the community.

Currently, she dreams of a future where she will be able to meet all her household needs and purchase a solar panel for her house. However, to boost the capital in the association, they are planning to engage in an income-generating activity. This will allow members to borrow more money than they are currently borrowing. They have suggested introducing a pig farming club in the association. Twambilire says, “the group wants to buy five piglets and construct a pigsty for them. Each member will be contributing maize bran (madeya) as food for the piglets.

Pork selling is a profitable business, not only in the community and its surrounding weekly markets but also at Chitipa Town. Thus, the group will earn more income through sales and eventually raise the capital for the association. Therefore, Twambilire’s dream will come true. She believes that the initiative will not only change her family’s financial situation but also transform the community as a whole.

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