The group of women gathered in Irene’s porch listen attentively as Ali explains how a GROW group functions. All of them struggle to feed their families and pay the rent. They’re hopeful that GROW will help them improve their economic status. GROW is one of a number of community banking concepts that are changing the way especially women in Zambia and other parts of Africa are managing money. It’s a simple concept, really. 10-20 women meet every week, bringing a compulsory amount of money to bank in the cash box, to which they can add a voluntary amount.The ‘bank’ is both a place to save and to borrow from. Women can borrow up to twice the amount they have deposited, with 10 percent interest, the full amount to be paid back within a designated period. The cash box has three locks, which three separate women hold, and is kept by a fourth to protect its contents. Two women are designated as money counters, two others as bookkeepers. Accountability is everything.
A week ago I helped facilitate a three day workshop for these women. A main focus of the workshop was the power each woman has within her and how to harness that power. Health – mental, emotional , physical and spiritual – was discussed. Prisca Kambole and Rose Mwale of the PLAEP organisation encouraged the women to think as entrepreneurs, and taught them basic business concepts. All this was to prepare the women for the formation of a GROW group.
It was exciting to be both at the workshop and the first meeting of the Kabalika (the light has come) group!