For Grace Knight Samba, a Kisumu businesswoman, life changed in 2014, when she joined the Group Savings and Loan (GS&L) program in her informal settlement, Manyatta.
One of eight that launched that year at the initiative of Alice Visionary Foundation Project, the GS&L groups are considered a vehicle for empowering the poor by training communities in how best to mobilize and manage financial resources in order to improve their households’ livelihood coping strategies.
Prior to joining the GS&L group, Grace relied on her husband’s meager income, which made it difficult to support the needs of their five small children at home. Her fortunes started to change after she acquired her first small loan (5,000 Kenya shillings, or $60), which she used to boost her small juice business.
Grace soon acquired better business management skills through an AVFP training on how to better manage income-generating activities. The training, and her subsequent success, then motivated Grace to take out a larger loan, which she invested in a shoe-selling business. After just six short months, Grace is now making a total monthly income of 55,000 Kenya shillings ($650) from her juice and shoe-selling businesses – more than 10 times her original loan. Recently, Grace acquired another small loan, to further diversify her businesses by making and selling peanut butter, which is already earning 100% profit.
With a stabilized income, Grace can now send her children to school without problem and provide a healthy diet for her family. Among the accomplishments she is most proud of: Grace is no longer a renter! She lives in her own house, constructed using part of her initial GS&L earnings.
Grace adds, “I am grateful that GS&L has enabled me to take care of my family expenses. I will continue encouraging other women to join GS&L, to increase their self-esteem and economic wellbeing. I appreciate the good work AVFP did by introducing the GS&L program in Manyatta. I hope this organization will expand and reach more women in all Kisumu Informal settlements.’’
The Group Savings and Loan schemes enable communities to adopt a culture of savings and to accumulate savings as a group, from which they can borrow to expand their economic activities, hence improving health and educational outcomes. A part of the proceeds from their improved incomes is deducted to service the loans, but eventually all contributions are shared out to members.
For poor and vulnerable women and men, belonging to a S&L group enhances their social capital within the community, helping them to elevate their senses of self-esteem and belonging, both of which are essential for long-marginalized people to become involved in mainstream development activities.
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