Caucus members applaud effectiveness of local savings groups
BALAKA, MALAWI – On September 20, 2012, 30 Malawian parliamentarians visited PCI’s Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA) program in the Balaka District to celebrate the program’s village savings and loan services that are helping empower women economically and socially. The Malawi Parliamentary forum established the Women Parliamentary Caucus with the overall objective of strengthening and advocating services that directly benefit women in the country. PCI (Project Concern International) launched the Women Empowered (WE) Initiative in 2011, an organizational effort to promote gender equity and empowerment in select developing countries around the world. PCI provides training to savings group participants in small business management, literacy, numeracy, entrepreneurship, financial budgeting and leadership skills. This training, coupled with savings group activities, provides a platform for sustainable businesses, economic development and social empowerment. WALA’s village savings and loan component is a part of PCI’s WE Initiative which is currently operating in 12 countries, including Malawi.
The Parlimentary Caucus group visited the Chimvano village savings and loan group, which has 24 members and was formed under PCI’s WALA program. That particular group was formed in May, 2010 and has completed two savings and sharing cycles. During the first share-out the group pooled and loaned roughly $500US. Motivated by successful loan payback and investment results, the group’s second loan cycle starting in October 2011 increased to nearly $1500US. The group is projected to loan out more than $5000US in its third sharing cycle in November, 2012. The success of the WE group is also characterized by a constitution which guides their group business, a culture of accountability and discipline. The group has also started two income generating activies to increase the group’s investment ability: a grocery co-op and irrigation site.
Many group members reported to the visiting caucus that their lives have significantly improved during the past two cycles. Some have been able to build brick houses with iron sheets, buy livestock, bicycles, pay school fees for their children at secondary schools, and even buy maize in an agricultural year made extremely difficult by serious drought and economic hardship throughout the country.
The Parliamentary Caucus group was impressed with the progress of the WE group and particularly the participation of women in the economic empowerment program, and encouraged more women and men to join the savings groups. Both the parliamentarian for the area, Hon. Maseko, and The District Community Development Officer Mr. Chirambo (representing the District Commissioner) commended PCI for the strong working relationship existing between their offices, PCI, and the government staff. The chairperson of the Parliamentary Caucus group, Hon. Chazama, thanked the group members for their progress and encouraged other non-participating community members to emulate the good example by forming other savings groups in the area. She also thanked PCI staff for effectively leading the WALA program in Balaka and for establishing good working relationship with key local stakeholders. PCI Malawi’s approach to the WALA program reinforces its belief in the importance of working closely with the district authorities and civil society agencies. “With support from local authorities, these women trust the PCI Malawi staff and our WALA program. This will ensure its adoption and sustainability well into the future,” stated Tim Connell, PCI Malawi’s Country Director.
The WALA program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of PCI and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.