Damac, a 40-year-old mother of eight, and Habibo, a 35-year-old mother of nine, are members of CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) in Somalia. Just a few years ago, they could barely make ends meet. Now, thanks to CARE’s VSLA program, their future looks promising.
Introduced to Somalia in 2011, the VSLA initiative is designed to meet the economic needs of vulnerable women. Under the program, women receive a business start-up grant of $USD 300 and training in courses such as bookkeeping, management, and entrepreneurship.
The participants then form a group of 15 women who make up the VSLA. They then make regular financial contributions to the group, and are able to take loans from it when required.
So far, CARE has supported 239 groups (4,388 individuals) across Somaliland and Puntland.
Although this initiative is not unique to Somalia, it was particularly life-changing for whole communities in the country. Somalia’s infrastructures are just beginning to recover from more than two decades of civil war. As such, access to basic financial services such as loans and saving facilities are almost nonexistent.
In one of the most remarkable stories so far, VSLAs in the Sanaag region donated $USD1,000 of their social fund to support the most vulnerable people in the drought-stricken region.
The program is transforming the lives of the two clothing shop owners, Habibo and Damac pictured above. Before joining their VSLA, the two were in a small tailoring business where they earned $USD4 per day. Their earning has now nearly tripled. On a good day, they can earn as much as $USD12. Their investment has also seen some improvement: from their initial investment of less than $USD600, their business is now estimated to be worth $USD5,000.
“My situation has changed a lot,” Habibo told us. “I can now afford food and pay school fees for my children.”
Damac added: “We thank CARE for the support and training and hope to get more support if possible.”