Her name is Ana. And praise God, she has not become a prostitute. She found a better way to make money.
Ana lives in Mozambique, where she was once a young married woman. But the years went on, and there was no baby.
Her husband divorced her as a result. Under the dual shame of barrenness and a failed marriage, she moved back in with her elderly parents. She needed a way to bring income into her household.
Saved by savings
A friend introduced Ana to Food for the Hungry’s savings groups, where she found companionship and encouragement. She learned how to manage income. She came to understand that saving even small amounts can add up fast. Her first income-generating business was one reserved for the poorest of the poor – gathering firewood to sell in the market.
Gathering firewood is hard. It means walking long distances, to the remote places where no one else has gathered the scarce wood. Women and girls are often robbed or sexually assaulted when they are looking for the precious household fuel.
Sometime after she began her firewood business, a man in her community approached her with a job offer. His legitimate business was running a local bar. He asked Ana if she would like to be work as a server in the bar, promising her large sums of easy money.
But Ana knew the truth: The women in the bar were sex workers. Most probably, the man approached her because she was an older single woman with little support. He figured Ana was an easy mark. But because she had income from another source, Ana was able to escape the life of a prostitute. She decided to stick with firewood as a way to make money.
Community members at the helm
FH has helped more than 7,000 people in Mozambique with its savings groups.
Right now, two-thirds of the participants are women, who usually have fewer options for income generation than men. Savings group give women like Ana a safe place to save money. And, they can take out short-term loans to start businesses or access a social fund that the groups set aside, to meet emergency needs.
Because FH doesn’t provide any of the capital for the groups — it all comes from their own savings — groups are fully self-sustaining. FH provides groups with training, via community volunteers, to get the group launched. The groups choose their own members, who then determine the loan size, interest rate, minimum deposits, and late payment fees.
The groups hold together for a maximum of one year. At the end of the year, each woman receives what she has deposited in savings, plus any dividends in interest and fees. And then the group members can decide if they want to form another group and start the cycle again.
Two years later, Ana’s participation in the savings group had enabled her to buy a bicycle, which made her firewood forays safer and faster. And, she’d been able to increase the acreage of her family farm. This meant she grew leftover food to sell in the market. She’d also saved enough to buy materials to build her own home.
What if Ana had never heard that she was capable of earning money legitimately? What if she had never realized that as a daughter of the King of Kings, she was made for more than being used and abused? In Mozambique, where HIV-AIDS rates are sky high, she would have been on a route to emotional, spiritual and physical death had she taken the wrong fork in the road.
Ana’s not the only woman who has benefited from savings groups. Mozambique isn’t the only place where FH’s savings groups are helping people. By giving toward savings groups, and other projects that increase household income, you help families make sustainable change for many years. And keep women on the path to developing their minds and talents.