Empowerment through Financial Inclusion
In many last-mile communities, households often lack access to regulated financial services such as banks and financial institutions, because they are considered “too high risk” or “too difficult” to reach. With limited access to financial services, these last-mile communities have few options when coping with financial emergencies, which can further aggravate and perpetuate the cycle of ultra-poverty.
However, in Kamuhoozi, a small village in Raising The Village’s Kahoko Cluster, Rukungiri District, things are different. Here, women and youth were inspired by a financial literacy training led by the Community Development Officers of Rukungiri District as part of Raising The Village’s programs, and were determined to overcome barriers they had faced in the past.
“Before we started the savings group, I didn’t have the habit of saving. Now, the group encourages me to save every month. I also meet and network with people to learn new business ideas which help me become a better person.”
Emily, the secretary of Kamuhoozi Youth Raising The Village Saving and Loans Association, shares.
According to Emily, one of the Kamuhoozi Youth VSLA group members, after the training, women and youth in the community left inspired to form a group that builds financial resiliency and discusses development issues for their community. They established the Kamuhoozi Youth Raising The Village’s Saving and Loans Association (VSLA), and now meet regularly to engage the community in priority planning behaviors, and to provide affordable credit and other financial services to more people.
Community members in Kahoko Cluster have seen tremendous growth after participating in the programs offered by Raising The Village, including these efforts around financial literacy and inclusion. Paired with holistic programs and economic development, accessing more loans has helped communities like Kamuhoozi break the cycle of poverty.
“It was difficult to access the amount of money we get today from our VSLA group as an individual. When many people save, we can do a lot of things. I appreciate Raising The Village for bringing such programs to our community,”
Taddeo, the chairperson of Nyaruhanga Youth Raising The Village VSLA, explains.
These approaches to both individual and community savings are particularly important in driving progress on gender equality in last-mile communities, as it facilitates economic empowerment for women.
“We started with small savings and bought chicken and chicken feed for everyone. In the future, by saving more money, the group plans to make bigger investments like buying each member a goat. For us women, this program has helped a lot. In case we need urgent things at home like a mattress, for example, we can easily borrow money from the group, buy the mattress, and pay the money later.” Emily added.
At the household level, VSLA enables women to balance their spendings and savings to invest in their children’s future and save money to guard against economic shocks.
“We have more women in our group compared to men. It’s because women tend to buy essentials like utensils and beddings for their households, and sometimes they save money for their children. In many cases, women use their loans to buy household items, but we always encourage them to make small investments as well,”
Moses, the chairperson of Kamuhoozi Youth Raising The Village Saving and Loans Association, shares.
Financial inclusion continues to have transformative effects for Kahoko Cluster, and communities like Kamuhoozi are now seeing better outcomes for children, household nutrition, and the wider community. Fortunately, for community members like Emily and her fellow VSLA members, this is just the beginning.