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The Power of Savings Groups

One of Girl Up Initiative Uganda’s first projects under the Young Women’s Economic Empowerment Program (YWEEP) was the Savings Group. The group was developed and initiated by young women in the community who requested GUIU to create a safe and accessible way to save money in order to assist with growing their business as well as to cover basic needs and school fees for their children. The main aim of the project is to ensure economic empowerment and financial independence through increasing women’s access to investment capital.

It originated as a Revolving Savings Group where each woman contributed a small amount of money to the group savings, and another woman who receive the cumulative contribution each week. In 2015, the group transformed from a revolving savings group to a savings group when GUIU identified that some of the women were having difficulties paying each week. With this new structure, the women can save independently of each other and do not feel pressure to pay each week. In November 2015, we opened a savings bank account at the Bank of Africa for the funds collected by the members since many of the women lack the proper identification to open bank accounts on their own. GUIU also printed out a savings book to track the deposits. The women deposit a minimum of 5,000 UGX ($1.50) each week, which they can withdraw at the end of the 12 months or choose to redeposit.

Below are a few stories of the women who are part of the Savings Group:

“I am Madina Nabukenya. I am a single mother to one child (a girl). When I heard about the savings club, I was so interested and wanted to join immediately. I want to be part of the club to save and buy land. I also want to raise fees for my little girl. I have a beauty salon as my business for now and I would like to see it grow. I have a target of saving up to three million shillings ($1,000) by the end of this year. I am happy to be part of this group and I look forward to the end of the year.”

My name is Nsungwa Masturah. I am a teacher at Murchison Bay Primary School. I am glad to be joining the savings club at GUIU so that I can start up a simple business sometime in the future and also to always be ready to support my children’s fees when it is time for school.For parents, sometimes we may not realize the pressure of how much school fees will cost when children are going back to school until its two or three days before school starts. I am glad to be part of the team and I hope I will be able to achieve much."

“My name is Apio Joyce. I have been in the savings club for a year now. I was so happy when I was told that I was the best at saving last year and this highly motivated me. I was able to save and take care of my financial problems and also take care of my family. I am anxious about how this year will go. My target for this year is to save up to four million shillings ($1,300) so that I can renovate my house in the village and also take care of other needs. I appreciate GUIU for considering our community and giving us such a great platform to flourish economically.”

“Innocent Komugisha is my name. I am a seamstress at Mazuri Designs. I have been in the savings club since last year and I benefited a lot from it. My target for this year is to be able to boost my business, and also raise tuition fees for my sister and myself. I wish to save up to 4 million shillings ($1,333) or even more. Last year, I was able to save and buy myself an electric sewing machine and that was one of the greatest achievements I had. I have hope that this year will be even better. I am glad to be part of Mazuri and GUIU as a whole.”

“My name is Kabayo Milliam. I am married with five children. Besides my own children, I take care of four orphans too. I got to know about the savings club through Innocent the seamstress and was given more information about it when I came to the office. I would like to save to be able to buy a piece of land and continue to take care of all my children to my best – to supplement their school fees as well as have money to take care of myself too. Am excited about how it will go for me this first year.”

The idea of a savings group is a replicable and low-cost way to promote women’s financial independence anywhere in the world. All it takes is organizing and facilitating group members through an organization like Girl Up Uganda. Savings groups are effective in creating opportunities for women to access the benefits of savings without having to open a personal bank account, which is nearly impossible for many women in slum communities. Also, the creation of a group provides the space to teach the basics of financial literacy and money management that can change lives and provide hope.

Additionally, saving with a group of other women makes it more fun and adds more accountability and friendly competition! In 2015, one member saved 1.47 million shillings ($490), which encouraged the other women to save even more in 2016. Dreams can be plotted and often achieved with the right plan, and we are grateful for the chance to be able to guide our group members in the right direction.

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