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Savings and loans associations increase standard of living

Women from Baroueli in Mali attend a microfinance meeting
Women from Baroueli in Mali attend a microfinance meeting.

Plan International Mali is committed to ensuring that women and their families are able to increase their financial means and achieve a better standard of living. At present we are partnering with communities to run 2032 Saving For Change groups (Village Savings and Loans Associations) for 43,971 women aged 15 to 49 in four programme areas in Mali. As a result, women’s income is improving, and they are contributing to education and health support of their children. The total income mobilised to 2014 was 520,840,232 CFA.

Awa Dembele is 55, and was widowed 5 years ago. She has 10 children and grandchildren. She believes that women's poverty only deepens their dependency and makes them vulnerable.

“That is why I am particularly active when it comes to establish a savings and credit group in our village,” she says. “Simply put, the savings and credit system has greatly changed my life. My first loan was a sum of 50,000 CFA francs (76 €) received from my group in 2009. With the help of a mentor, I then specialised in small trade, poultry farming and gardening. Throughout the year, I supply the village and its surrounding fairs with shea butter, fruits and vegetables.”

Awa also runs a small shop selling household items.

“Currently, my financial situation allows me to ensure the wellbeing of my family and especially to sponsor the studies of my eldest son,” she says. “My latest achievement - the construction of my own house in the town - has cost me all my savings but I am very proud of this.”

“Today, the situation of women in our village is much better than in the past. We had problems. We have developed a spirit of solidarity. Today, opportunities for baptisms, weddings and funerals are platforms we use to support and advise each other. My role is that of conciliation and mediation towards men in general and husbands in particular. This is due to my charisma and certainly the financial stress many men have during times of food or money scarcities.

“Also, when the rainy season approaches, I give loans like food and garden seeds to many men of the village. And I use these opportunities to influence them when they are in conflict with their wives to bring peace in the family. Even though it was not easy, I am happy to admit that today the village council of Dioni accepts the involvement of women sitting together with the wise men. All my sisters are happy because they feel more protected and are less abused in their homes. This is how we want to live in Dioni, in harmony with each other for the benefit of our village.”