A Bank in a Box
I would like to ask you a favour. Please keep these percentages for me: 52%, 69% and 89%.
Two weeks ago, I was in the Northern region of Benin, Bourgou. Under its considerably hot weather, Bourgou is a region less developed compared to the south, but still vibrant in its own way. This morning, we are in Takou village, situated in about 25km from the main road.
Do you remember the percentages I gave you when we started? Well. 52% of the population in Benin are women. 69% of those have been assaulted at least once in their life (as by statistics from 2009), and 89% of young girls (2-14 years old) are subject to trafficking. Despite the efforts made by institutions working in line with empowering women and children, there are still big challenges in ensuring their protection. But what is the best way to protect a woman other than empowering her?
The project PACTE, co-founded by the European Union and Care International started in 2017, with a goal to contribute to the eradication of exploitation and violence towards children and women in Benin. Here in Takou, the project is implemented in partnership with Equi-Filles. Under the theme of empowering women to give them an opportunity to actively participate in social development, and for that matter, a saving group has been created in this village.
Women meet once every week, and everybody contributes an amount between 500 to 2500 XOF, which is kept in a box, closed by 3 different padlocks, whose keys are kept by 3 different members. After saving, each member’s savings are recorded by the secretary in their individual saving booklet. Now, at the end of every year, each member gets the total amount they saved throughout the whole year, an amount that they can use to solve their families’ needs, start a small business, or anything else to empower themselves.
“Before I joined the saving group, I was living in very hard conditions with my husband who had no means to provide for the family. Last year, I took a loan and was able to restart my cashew business. At the start I was only saving 500 XOF per week. But with my business, things are going well, and I am now able to save not less than 2500 XOF per week. My husband is happy with what I do, as I help him to provide for our house” – Gabriel Monica
Another key activity this group does is giving micro-loans to members. Any of them who needs a loan can simply ask for it, a loan that they have to pay a 20% profit for per month.
“Today I took a loan of 20,000 XOF. I am going to add on what I already have and buy cassava that I will transform into Gali to sell. Normally, I make a 100% profit on invested money. So I am sure I will be able to pay back this loan and still remain with a good profit”- Dama Ibrahim
“Me and my colleague are both 30 years old and our husband is 50 years old. We have been part of this group since 3 years ago. The house we were living in was very old and our husband had no means to build a new one for our family. So we two decided to put together our savings in the group, and get new a house built. For the first year, we used our savings to raise walls, and the 2 years that followed, we used our savings to get the roof done. It actually is our first time that we are talking about this publicly, and everyone thinks our new house was built by our husband, even our fellow group members did know it.”
– Marc Kpagnéro & Marc Béatrice, married to one husband
Last week, our fellow Face2Hearts blogger Lauren challenged us to tell a story of a project that is helping to achieve one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is one of such projects I have visited so far, especially targeting Goal 5, which is Gender Equality. But again, the magic of the SDGs is that they are all interlinked, and so, I see more goals aimed in this project, such as goal 1 (No poverty), Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and so many more. 🐑