This might not seem like a big deal. But in Uganda, the stigma surrounding disability means that many of the group’s members have had little or no financial independence before joining – many of them have been seen as incapable of working or managing money.
The savings group grew from an innovative economic empowerment programme that was set up to give young people with disabilities access to training and apprenticeships. The programme, which started in 2012, has seen an incredible change in Masindi and its surrounding districts in western Uganda: it has expanded to teach financial literacy skills, and the savings and loan group plays a key role in giving students access to funds so they can expand their businesses.
After group member Florence graduated from the empowerment programme, she started her own tailoring business. She approached the other members of the savings group for a loan to expand into food retail, and now sells staple items such as fish outside her workshop, as well as making and mending clothes. She’s paid back her initial loan, and is saving up to build her own home.
The vast majority of the programme’s graduates now work with local employers or have set up their own businesses, and many also act as mentors for the new intake of students. Collectives like the savings and loan group enable young people to support each other while developing their businesses and gaining experience in how to manage money.
Joseph, who runs the group, says: “We collect the savings from people – from 1,000 to 5,000 [Ugandan] shillings. Those who can give 5,000 do; those who have less can pay less. When we’ve finished that, we ask for those people who want a loan [from the group’s savings] to bolster their businesses, and we give out the loan. After the month you return it with a profit of 10 per cent – so if you take 100,000 shillings, you bring 110,000 back.