Patience Sandi (58) is Chairperson of the Community Savings and Loan Association (CSLA) in Dwarzack, a parish in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. The group’s motto is: ‘together we can make change’ – something which Patience embodies in her day-to-day life and her role managing the group.
Patience thought she would be left to raise her five children alone when her husband passed away. Fortunately, the community rallied behind her to offer support. This community spirit was vital in their battle to stop the spread of the Ebola virus. GOAL teams have been working closely with Patience and the local community since that outbreak in 2014. The CSLA initiative emerged from the community response to the disease and has changed women’s lives in Dwarzack.
GOAL has been working with Women’s Groups to improve financial independence through Community Savings and Loan Associations. The initiative encourages participants to make regular weekly savings and contribute to a collective savings scheme. From the group savings made, loans can be given to group members who need the money for matters like healthcare bills, home improvements or business startup costs. As a result, many women in the community have become financially independent, being able to take care of their homes and pay other bills themselves.
Empowering Women in the Community
Dwarzack CSLA members meet every Saturday. As well as taking care of financial matters, they also discuss other issues within their community like teenage pregnancy, child marriage and gender-based violence. The group also offer advice to community members to address concerns and issues.
The CSLA group has been very helpful to women within the community, Patience says.
“Initially, things were difficult for us, with children to take care of. We had no livelihoods. I relied on micro-credit loans which has a very high interest rate and most of the time I was unable to pay. But since the savings and loan scheme started, it has really helped me.”
Patience sells cold drinks to provide for her family. With the profits left over she contributes weekly savings into the savings scheme. This allows her to borrow money anytime she is in need of extra funds to support her family.
“Now I can take care of my home bills, and all other expenses at home without asking for help from anyone like I used to do,” Patience says.
Patience is embracing her role as chairperson and hopes to expand the group to reach even more women in the community, to ensure more women can be given greater financial independence:
“At the moment, there is only one group here. I intend to form other groups this year, to help more women within our community. The CSLA has been a life-changer for us. We are happy that GOAL brought this for us.”
A Desire to be Self Sufficient
Tity Koroma and Patience have a lot in common. Both have been forced to raise their children alone following the deaths of their husbands. Until Tity (56) joined the Dwarzack CLSA she had been completely reliant on family members for financial support, leaving her deeply frustrated.
To regain her independence and help provide for her four grandchildren, Tity joined the local savings and loan group. The group has helped to transform her life.
“I have benefited significantly since I joined this group and we have helped each other as women. We even extend gestures to other women who are not part of our group, especially pregnant women, and lactating mothers,” she says.
Tity has also been able to start a business of her own, selling soap and other hygiene items to her community:
“I have borrowed twice from the savings scheme, with which I have made a lot of profit the independence the loan scheme has brought us is significant. I have not asked my children for money since I joined this group and started my small business. It is a huge sigh of relief for me.”