24 Oct

Building strong financial systems initiated by HELIOZ’ community work

It often only takes simple steps to start movements for change – this also rings true for HELIOZ safe water project in Eastern Uganda. Village Savings and Loan Associations are a community-based institution, democratizing financial independence that have found popularity in communities using WADI.

The starting point for these success stories are village meetings within HELIOZ' safe water & climate project in Namayingo district, Eastern Uganda. The purpose of those meetings is to establish WADI as the household water disinfection method, carry out further training and provide all households with a platform to exchange their experiences, raise questions or just connect and tell stories. Focus also lies on improving WASH infrastructures such as the construction of pit latrines and hand washing to end the practice of open defecation and to facilitate sustainable behaviour change. What those meetings also achieve however, is allow us to learn, how far the impact of WADI as water disinfection goes.

Once households begin to really see the impact WADI has on their health (reduced water-related illnesses) and hence reduced expenditure on medical bills, they start to dedicate more time towards productive tasks such as farming, leading to significant improvement in their income. And eventually, they see a need to organise, pull their savings together and use them for financial empowerment through loans and investments.

Case in point: The Sibahola Nobana Sisihindakhwola Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) group.  

Eight months ago, a group of 30 women from Muhuwa Village in Buhemba Parish, Namayingo District started their savings and loans association, aiming to break limited financial access and poverty. HELIOZ implementation partner Get Water Uganda offered them expert training and support to set up everything they need for their office. Today, the group has accumulated a remarkable capacity of EUR 1,700.- with the lending possibility to its members at only 5% interest, a percentage way below average commercial banks' interest rates of over 20% on top of collateral demands. Additionally, the women have acquired business knowledge and skills and are currently investing in farming, selling produce, rearing animals and keeping poultry. This leads to full circle benefits, increasing household income, and reducing domestic violence as the women now rise to support their household needs and education for their children.

This story is part of the journey that has been initiated and is currently running in 37 groups throughout the project. Village Savings and Loan associations vividly improve the livelihood and economic power of women in these rural communities. They need very little investment to create change that is invaluable to many.