This story was originally posted for Faith to Action
Margret unexpectedly found herself as the sole breadwinner for her five children — three girls and two boys. She was overwhelmed and left with little hope. “It was as if all the gates and doors of hope in life for us were closed leaving us in a dark room,” she said. Her oldest daughter Mwende had just become a candidate to advance in Kenya’s primary school with the hope of continuing secondary education the following year. However, Margret struggled to make ends meet by going from house to house looking for cleaning jobs. The idea of Mwende actually going to school was a distant dream.
Over time Margret decided to join a group of women who were earning money by weaving and selling ropes. She started making and selling them, which gave her some financial support. Fortunately, Savings for Life (SFL), a savings and loan program through World Relief, was introduced in her village in Kenya. SFL is built on a century-old way of saving and borrowing. The rotating savings and borrowing system called “rosca” has been a way for people to come together, put the same amount of money in the pot, and gain a loan through a lottery system. The SFL gives the group members flexibility by allowing them to choose how much money they want to save rather than requiring a set amount as well as allowing them to choose when and how much money to loan based on need. To increase trust and accountability, the group members are self-selected, a five-person leadership committee is appointed, and the group is self-managed. Members write their own constitution and policies. Courtney O’Connell, Senior Technical Advisor for Savings for Life, explained, “It builds off of traditional ways of savings that are familiar to people. Yet there is a very significant difference — the methodology is improved upon so there is more trust, greater transparency, and accountability. People believe in it and trust the system and group members and a higher amount of money is saved because of that.”