Savings Groups Open a World of Possibility for Oaxacan Women
Written by Kenzie Leas on November 7, 2013 in General
Sweet, big brown eyes peered through the paneless window as the clanking of coins and clapping of congratulatory hands bounced off cylinder block walls.
We entered the home of the Village Savings and Loan Associations’ (VSLA) president to find eleven women and two children crowded around a small table. A cash box sat in the center. The group was attentive and ready as the bimonthly VSLA meeting began. We watched from afar as the women methodologically went through their routine: counting the money in the bank, depositing savings, paying back interest on the loans, and counting again.
The moment a young woman marries and becomes pregnant, the community no longer recognizes her as a child, but as an adult who must nurture and care for her family. In a culture where the average young woman gets pregnant by age 13 or 14, opportunities for women’s involvement outside the home are few and far between. Imagine the challenges that these women face.
Adolescents typically drop out of school after 6th or 7th grade because local high schools are anywhere from 10 to 50 miles away, too far to travel by foot. With minimal education and their own children to feed, young men are forced to farm a small plot of land while young women care for the children and watch after the home. Opportunity for advancement doesn’t come often.
But in communities where Plant With Purpose works, like Monte Frio, new opportunities are presenting themselves for these women.
As the group latched the final locks on the savings box, the president opened the floor for a Q&A with the group. We discovered why these women got involved in the VSLA, the initial struggles they faced, the fear they had, and why they continue to save today. As women opened up, we heard about the healthy skepticism they held when the VSLA group first began. Little-by-little, they decided to take a leap of faith and join the group, and for many, after their first interest payback, they fully understood the rich benefits to such a system. Smiles illuminated their faces as they shared their experiences.
The common theme throughout their stories was a newfound ability to provide a better life for their children. One woman was saving to buy sweaters for her children before the winter; another for new backpacks for her children; another to purchase chickens for her family; and another to help her husband expand his farm so he can better provide for his family. Without the savings-and-loan group, none of this would have been possible.
These women are astonishing. Their strength is inspiring and their enthusiasm is encouraging. To give the gift of empowerment to women like those in Monte Frio, visit our online Gifts of Hope catalog.