Recently, Tostan Senegal welcomed representatives from partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the city of Thiès, Senegal for a training session with Freedom from Hunger, an international NGO operating in 17 countries across the globe. Tostan has been working with Freedom from Hunger on their Saving for Change Program – a program created with Oxfam America and the Stromme Foundation of Norway – which allows women to make small deposits and build sums of money. By saving the small amount of 100 francs (around 20 US cents) each week, women are able to distribute small loans of capital to each other and invest in small business ventures.
The Saving for Change program is currently being implemented in 55 communities in 7 regions of Senegal. During the training session, Freedom from Hunger briefed Tostan staff and facilitators on how to instruct communities to incorporate the innovative loan strategy into the activities of Community Management Committees (CMC): groups formed in each Tostan village to support sustainable development through management and micro-loans.
In the Saving for Change program, members pool money, borrow, invest in small business enterprises (such as buying cloth to sell), and pay an interest of 10 percent on the loans. This money grows in the group fund for one year and the assets are then disbursed equally to all members before the 12-month cycle starts again.
Participating in the training session in Thiès was Hélène Cabo, a representative from the nonprofit USOFORAL, spoke about the solidarity created through the partnership between Freedom From Hunger and Tostan: “Women who hid in their homes now actively participate in community development. It is these women who suffer the most so it is they who stand to benefit the most from this partnership with Tostan.”
Cheikh Diouf, Coordinator of Tostan’s Empowered Communities Network (ECN) in Senegal, speaking about the importance of this partnership with Freedom from Hunger, explained:
The Saving for Change program has encouraged Community Management Committees to become more autonomous and seek their own economic development opportunities. Our objective is to reinforce financial and food security, however, we have also had great success in strengthening the capacity of women to become household earners and gain a greater degree of financial independence.
Story and photos by Leah Cassidy, Tostan Volunteer in Thiès, Senegal