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Saving scheme initiatives are changing lives in Guinea-Bissau

Village Savings and Loans (VSL) groups have expanded these last years in Gabu region benefiting people with disabilities.

In Guinea-Bissau, most social and ethnic groups see disability as a malediction, a punishment, a social sanction for any errors or for transgression of something forbidden, and a sin. Many rural residents of the Gabu region, including the disabled people, have no access to formal financial services or do not have access to the services they need.

Aiming to ensure equality and participation, Plan International Guinea-Bissau started a pilot in 2014 on inclusive Village Savings and Loans (VSL) group in Gabu region to support a large number of disabled people.

disabled woman member of VSL group
Mama Djakité in front of her shop

According to Maimuna, 41- year-old. "Here people with disabilities are excluded from economic life and have no access to financial services, but with this VSL system, no one is excluded and all have opportunity to save and access loans for different activities. Before we formed the group with other colleagues".

"I had some difficulties to solve my problems, but after we created the group with the support of the Plan International Guinea-Bissau, all members can save a minimum and access to the loan for their small businesses and to avoid street begging which does not dignify any deficient", she continued.

Currently, the project has 21 active, disabled and non-disabled members, including 17 women.

Last year, Mama Djakité had three credit opportunities through VSL. This enabled her to start a small business. She owns a little shop in her community. This allows her to solve health problems, maintain her motorcycle and support her family. She is the eldest in her household, and bears responsibilities to her parents according to their traditions. Mama Djakite also supports the education of her niece with her business.

"The VSL system assumes the "Abota" (raising money by equal contributions or subscriptions to a club) features improved especially in the aspect of democratic governance, products, policies, standardized, easily mastered, procedures, good security funds, high returns on savings and predictability of the results, are defined by the members", she said.

Thousands of people living with disabilities have experienced the same positive change in their daily life in Guinea-Bissau, especially in the area where Mama Djakité lives.

The members of the inclusive VSL group manage to obtain results which impact on their life and their children, including the reduction of economic vulnerability, their insertion and increased dignity in society.