Women speak out on how saving schemes changed their lives

DESPITE concerted efforts to empower women and sensitise them on their rights, they still face many challenges. The ordinary women find it difficult to access credit compared to men.  This is because many ordinary women don’t have collateral which is a prerequisite to acquire a bank loan. But this has not stopped them from looking for a solution. Several women have joined Savings and Credit Co-operatives (SACCOs) where members can acquire small loans without having to present security and pay back at a low interest rate depending on their savings.  Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi spoke to different women whose lives have been changed by saving schemes.
Annociata Musengimana,
Annociata Musengimana,

DESPITE concerted efforts to empower women and sensitise them on their rights, they still face many challenges. The ordinary women find it difficult to access credit compared to men. 

This is because many ordinary women don’t have collateral which is a prerequisite to acquire a bank loan.

But this has not stopped them from looking for a solution. Several women have joined Savings and Credit Co-operatives (SACCOs) where members can acquire small loans without having to present security and pay back at a low interest rate depending on their savings. 

Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi spoke to different women whose lives have been changed by saving schemes.

I used to be a housewife, but when I talked to other women, they introduced me to basket weaving initiatives and that is how I joined Ikirezi Cooperative and got involved in the saving scheme. When I received my first savings after nine months last year, I decided to invest the money. I bought a stall in Nyabugogo market to sell second-hand clothes. The business is now growing and I now save Rwf5, 000 weekly. The higher the number of women that save and the members that come for loans, with interest, your savings will double and you can get capital to start a business. One by one makes a bundle; you don’t need a lot to prosper, start small and you will earn big in the process. 

Asia Gahongayire, Resident of Kimisagara, (Cooperative Ikirezi)

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When I go to deposit my Rwf4, 000 weekly savings, we don’t just deposit and go; we get to talk about different business ventures that can empower us economically. For instance when I received my first savings package last year, I was able to build a one-roomed house as a rental and the tenant pays me Rwf18, 000 per month. As a widow with over nine children to take care of, I can say that the saving scheme has given me a sigh of relief. It has taught me how to plan and now my children can have a bright future. I have learnt a lot from the saving scheme.

Annociata Musengimana, Resident of Kimisagara, a member of (Ikirezi Cooperative)

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I have gained a lot of experience in business and finance management thanks to the saving scheme. In fact I wish to encourage young women to join these cooperatives so as to boost their finances and enjoy the benefits that come with it. I joined the cooperative two years ago, I learnt how to make baskets and I earn from the initiative and believe my future is bright. 

Saidati Nyinawumuntu, 22-year-old resident of Kimisagara (Cooperative Ikirezi)

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I’m an old woman and weaving baskets is all I can do. I earn from the baskets and I don’t get to stress my children, begging them for money to do this or that. However, besides getting money from the saving scheme, I enjoy the interaction I have with the cooperative members; it’s better than staying at home week in week out.  Interacting with them makes me feel young. I advise them and they also educate me on different matters. 

Zaituni Mbabazi, Resident of Gitega  (Cooperative Agaseke K’iwacu)

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Before joining this cooperative and getting involved in the saving scheme, I didn’t know that someone can actually save the little they have and economically empower themselves in the future. I always thought that one had to go to the bank and open an account and start saving a lot of money for the money to be productive. But with the cooperative scheme, one can save as little as Rwf1, 000 a day for months. The money accumulates and can be used for something constructive to generate even more money. I’m so happy that I’m a part of something that has such a great impact on me and my family. 
Josephine Nishimwe, resident of Kimisagara (Cooperative Abanyarukundo)
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The saving scheme is of great importance in our lives in so many ways. For instance if someone has Rwf100,000, before the nine months elapse, when she comes for a loan, her savings are tripled and that means that she will  get Rwf 300,000. With this money, one can start a business and then pay back in instalments with a low interest rate. As a cooperative we share experiences economically, socially and emotionally. If a woman is empowered, her family is likely to be empowered, and so will the nation. Our lives are better now and we are hoping for greatness.
Charlotte Mukawera, Resident of Muhima  (President of Cooperative Nyamuraza) 
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The saving scheme is a way of preparing yourself for uncertainties. For example I save like Rwf5, 000 per week, when I get a financial problem that requires say Rwf 80,000, I come to the cooperative and they offer me a loan which I pay back with a small interest rate. But if I was not saving with the cooperative, where would I get the money? I don’t think a friend can lend you that kind of money instantly. I can say that the saving scheme has been helpful in terms of learning how to handle our finances as well as solving financial constraints. 
Marceline Kankindi, Resident of Muhima  (Cooperative Nyamuraza)
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The saving scheme is a process through which people can tackle poverty and as women, it’s another way to empower ourselves economically. The savings can act as start up capital for a desired business venture.  Cooperatives help us as women to learn a lot of things in regards to social, economic and human rights initiatives, thus we are able to be part of the development of our country. 
Francoise  Nyiransabimanama, Resident of Kimisagara (Cooperative Abanyarukundo)
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I joined the saving scheme at the beginning of the year after seeing how other women were progressing economically. I have learnt a lot in regards to finance, especially how saving can help me achieve my targets in the future. Although my husband is supportive, I also help out financially in the family; we now sit as a family and plan on what business we can get involved in to improve our finances. I currently make baskets but I’m hoping after nine months the savings will have accumulated, enabling us to invest in profit making businesses. 
Losarie Tuyisenge, Resident of Gitega (Cooperative Agaseke K’iwacu)
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Besides getting advice from the cooperative members on what business venture to take on each time we get the savings after nine months, I will say I enjoy how members of the cooperative stand with you in case you have a problem, whether financial or social. We are like a family thanks to the idea of forming a cooperative in the name of saving.  I want to tell women out there who are scared of joining cooperatives that they are missing out on so much. 
Catherine Nyirabagenzi, Resident of Gitega (Cooperative Agaseke K’ iwacu)
 

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