Iferouane mentor with her students
Savings and Loan Groups (S&L's) are the next step to financial independence for those who serve as mentors to at-risk girls and other women in our partner communities. We choose the S&L model over microfinance because we feel it’s imperative that members invest their own funds after the initial seed investment provided by RAIN. Saving is not a part of nomadic culture, and S&L's serve to teach the concept of saved sums adding up towards a common goal. Once trained, mentors will not only run their own groups, some will go on to become community trainers independently.
In January 2014, RAIN brought together ten women serving as mentors to at-risk girls in the northern community of Iferouane to form a Savings and Loan group with the goal of creating financial opportunities. The mentors invited ten additional women from the community, bringing the total number of members to twenty. Located in the northern Agadez Air Massif region of Niger, Iferouane has a population of 5,000, comprised mostly of nomadic Tuareg people. The challenges facing the community include extreme poverty, lack of educational opportunities, food and water shortages, and few opportunities for women, much like all rural nomadic areas in Niger. The RAIN mentoring program is making a real difference in the lives of Iferouane girls who receive support and encouragement from their mentors: higher grades, better school attendance and retention levels, along with higher rates of continuation of their studies into the future. Two mentors had their ten girls graduate from primary school, and are still acting as mentors into secondary school.
After extensive weekly trainings over the first 3 to 4 months, the S&L members have become more independent - overseeing meetings and making decisions, working closely with RAIN field agent Djibrilla Mahamane. At first, many viewed the savings component as simply giving money away, not fully realizing the annual cycle result. Djibrilla consistently reminded the women that their funds would be returned to them at the end of the year.
Into the third and fourth months, many women commented to Djibrilla, “Where is all this money coming from?” He replied: “It is your money!” The Iferouane S&L members used their loans for a variety of small business ventures. Of the 30 loans taken, 10 were repaid with funds generated from sheet embroidery. In addition to the embroidered sheets, women expanded and started new small business endeavors, mostly involving buying products in town for resale in Iferouane, such as: headscarves, plastic buckets, washing basins, artisan products, animal hides for leather craft workers, water containers, and sugar. Other enterprises included raising a goat or ram for resale, yogurt production and key-chain and jewelry fabrication.
Weekly savings amount: 100cfa (20 cents)
Weekly saving amount: 2,000cfa ($4)
Monthly savings amount: 8,000cfa ($16)
Percentage of members taking loans: 100%
Average number of loans per meeting: 3.5
Total number of 2014 loans: 31
Total amount of 2014 loans: 550,000cfa ($1,100)
Mean loan size: 20,000cfa ($40)
Mean duration of loans: 3 months
Average profit margin 3,500cfa ($7) to 28,000cfa ($56).
Loan amounts: 10,000cfa; 15,000cfa; 20,000cfa; 25,000cfa; 30,000cfa [$20; $30; $40; $50; $60]
Maximum loan duration: 4 months
Loan interest: 250cfa/5,000cfa/month [50 cents on every $10 per month]
The members of the Ekasen Tumouhoutar Savings & Loan group have spent a year together, and the solidarity of the group has grown equally as important to them as the financial benefits. The ten community women invited to participate have become interested in becoming mentors, as well. For the first time, the women of Iferouane are coming together to determine their own economic priorities. We look forward to bringing this empowerment to more of our partner communities in 2015 with your help. Thank you for all you do!
“It was after the loan meetings that we really understood the value of this group. The savings and the interest that brings more money made us understand the value of our lockbox. We thank RAIN and field agent Djibrilla. Thanks to this training, today we have earned $17.87 at the annual remittance and benefitted from loans throughout the year.” Assalama Attaher – Mentor President
“I am so happy that we have the saved and earned money from our group. It has really helped with all of our needs, including naming ceremonies and weddings, medicine, sauce ingredients and even costs for our children who are in school.” - Hawa Almoustapha
“Our lockbox has helped us so much. We have even seen benefits from this program besides being able to take out loans. We have the ability to do small business activities that help us with our needs. It is also the solidarity that we have found in this group that has really interested me. Thank you.” - Mariama Mohamed
“I am happy to have benefited at the end of the year when we shared our savings and interest earned. I really enjoy getting together every week as a group. I also love to meet with our students every week to educate and teach them crafts that will help them to keep our culture alive. This is really a sign of solidarity. Thank you to RAIN and its entire staff!” - Treasurer Tinna Mohamed
Iferouane S&L meeting