Circles of change: from savings to small businesses
Having a safe place to save money and access to credit can help a woman—and her family—work their way out of poverty. That’s the goal of Oxfam’s Saving for Change program. It helps women who live in even the most remote villages gain financial independence and learn entrepreneurial skills.
Started in Mali in 2005 and now spread to 13 countries, the initiative brings neighbors and friends together into small groups where they can save their money, lend it to each other, and charge interest without needing to go to a money lender or other intermediary and take on debt. Group members use their loans to start small businesses or expand existing ones, buy household necessities, or meet sudden emergencies. Some saving circles manage more than $1,000—a resource that can fuel positive changes in remote communities.
And now, in an expansion of the program, a new set of opportunities is available to groups that are well established: business and citizenship training for members with entrepreneurial ambition. The training is tailored to the interests and needs of the participants and the content covers everything a budding businesswoman needs to know to be successful, including sessions on enterprise design, implementation, and management strategies. In the trainings on citizenship, group members learn about their rights and duties as citizens, about voting and paying taxes, and about the roles and responsibilities of local authorities.