When former street vendors launched a Village Savings and Loans Association in Gasabo District three years ago, they didn’t expect that it would grow their respective profiles as entrepreneurs.
They just started by saving Rwf500 and Rwf100 of direct support every Saturday for each member and now about 90 women share over Rwf10 million per year to take away home.
By providing loans from the savings, members have now started their own businesses from which they have predictable income.
Joyce Abajeneza is one of the beneficiaries of Ikirezi Village Saving and Lending Association in Bukinanyana cell of Kimironko sector.
She said that she started with tailoring as a small business with one tailoring machine and later expanded the business thanks to access to a loan from the saving group.
“After starting the savings group, I was able to access a loan of Rwf50,000 for the the first time and later, I got another for Rwf150,000 which I used to invest in Kitenge Fashion trade.
“I later got another loan amounting to Rwf300,000 which, together with the savings I had, I invested in wedding dress business whereby I lease bridal outfits during wedding ceremony,” she said.
The entrepreneur said that her investment has increased from Rwf500,000 to Rwf2 million.
“I can save about Rwf200,000 per month after all expenses. I now have wedding dress shop in city centre,” she said.
Francine Muragijemariya, added, “The saving group has helped us to also deal with social problems. When one of member falls sick, gives birth, gets married or faces any issue, we us part of saved direct support to them,” she added
Joseph Kazungu, the Executive Secretary of Nyagatovu Cell said while there are women who are still struggling in the area but mobilisation is ongoing to ensure that they can save from little income they get.
“We need to continue mobilizing them and providing development tips to encourage them to keep working and saving. We visit them in their saving associations to make sure they do not fall back into poverty,” he said.
Irena Musayidire, the Vice president of National Women Council in Kigali City said that the Village Saving and Lending Associations are the sustainable schemes for women empowerment.
“Women grouped in those saving associations are engaged in different types of small businesses and some of them are growing rapidly. Former street vendors have now moved to markets and running good projects,” she added.
The women also benefitted from training on financial literacy by Joint Action for Peace and Development (JAPED), a local organization.
Ildephonse Hitimana, the President of the Board of JAPED members said that the support to the saving initiative primarily focused on women who dominate informal trade.
“They save from Rwf500 to Rwf1000 per member. We have 548 women grouped into 20 saving association groups under the pilot project. We want to see their success and serve as a model to train other women,” she said.