WICO is a women-led organization whose mandate is to uphold women’s rights, health and livelihoods and it is a registered Trust (# MA0000427/215) that was established in 2009. It seeks to create safe spaces for women to participate in governance processes and exercise their constitutional rights. WICO has, in the past, focused on rural women – as they constitute the majority – but has realized the urban-rural gap as well.
WOMEN IN COMMUNITIES ZIMBABWE (WICO) has over the past 12 years been working towards the economic emancipation of women in Zimbabwe. This has taken many forms in an attempt to ensure that the women in the constituencies that we worked were better equipped for improved livelihoods. Our programs ranged from health, women’s rights, and improved livelihoods.
In 2017, during a UNDP funded program, WICO worked with 153 women in three villages I Shurugwi, in the Midlands province of Zimbabwe. The women were taken through various trainings on natural resource management and climate smart agriculture. They were assisted in setting up a community nutrition garden and improved farming techniques, bio intensive gardening (B.I.G) to increase their garden yield for household consumption and for resale. This increased their monthly income from $5/month to $50/month. This strengthened the capacity of these women and WICO further provided them with skills in entrepreneurship and business management giving them an opportunity to better their market gardening business.
It then became prudent that we introduce these women to some form of saving scheme that would ensure financial stability and sustainability of the project. This is when we introduced the ISALS into this community of women.
The Internal Savings and Lending clubs are a self-funding micro-finance model. The women formed clubs of 10 to 15 members, who agree to meet regularly, usually monthly, to save the little extra that they make from the sale of their produce. Once they had saved enough, they started lending to themselves and had full control over their money. The introduction of this concept was greatly welcome by the women as this improved their standard of living greatly as they could venture into other money making projects. The savings clubs have given them more influence on how to use family income to improve the welfare of the family.
There were several benefits derived from the ISAL program:
In Zimbabwe the women have suffered the brunt of the economic meltdown more than their male counterparts as they are the ones who take care of the home. The women have struggled to access financial assistance from the mainline banking facilities as these require collateral which most women cannot raise. This is the reason why these savings schemes have become popular and welcome in these communities. They have inculcated a culture of saving and investment for future business ventures as they assist each other with start-up capital. This can be replicated to as many villages as possible. Some of the women have also used the scheme to save up for household groceries which they share quarterly or annually to ensure adequate food stocks in the home and enough food to enjoy the festive season.