More Than Just a Place to Save
Savings groups are circles of women who work together to create their own group bank; they build savings, manage their accounts, and give loans to members both to grow their businesses and to use in times of hardship. But these circles represent so much more than just a savings box—they are a source of information, new ideas and a support system for women.
In one savings group in India, one of its members, Rudhe Khersil, was three months pregnant when the group was formed. She saved together with the other women but, as her due date drew closer, she could no longer attend the meetings.
But although Rudhe wasn’t present, the other women learned from a health worker about the value of giving birth in a health clinic rather than in their homes, something practiced by nearly all families in that community. They learned that staff at the health clinics would ensure that the mother has a safe delivery and that mother and child receive medical care if there were any problems. All of these services were free. They even learned about a government program that would give a cash payment to any woman who gave birth in a health clinic.
The women in Rudhe’s savings group thought about her and decided they’d help ensure that she could give birth safely in a health center instead of in her home. So, the savings group decided to set 1,000 rupees (approximately $18 USD) aside in the savings box and not touch it until it was time for Rudhe to give birth. While the health clinic treatment was free, she would need funds for transportation. The group’s funds were tight and some members had to do without loans so they could protect Rudhe’s money.
One night, Rudhe began feeling labor pains so some of the women took the money, rented a vehicle, and took her to the nearest hospital. Happily, she gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby. She also received the money from the government for having her baby in the hospital, which she returned to her savings group members.
To the women we work with, savings groups are more important than just accessing savings and credit. They enable women to come together to support one another in times of need. Rudhe’s savings group, Mother Durga Women’s Group, is named in honor of the Goddess Durga who is said to help in situations of distress. For Rudhe, her group helped in times of joy too.
Interested in how a savings group meeting runs in India? Click here.