Jawahir Ali Hassan, a widow with three children, recently moved out of the squalid Tawakal IDP camps, where the family has lived for eight years, to a decent two-room rented house in Kismayo. She also enrolled her 14-year-old daughter back in school.
The turnaround in Jawahir’s life was made possible by the $1,500 loan she received six months ago from the Kismayo Women’s Association that she used to set up a shop selling clothing, soft drinks and fuel.
Jawahir, who migrated to Kismayo from Afmadow in Lower Juba region, is now paying $70 rent and $90 for her children’s school fees every month, as well as making loan repayments of up to $80 depending on her earnings.
The Kismayo Women’s Association started a rotating savings and loan scheme seven months ago to help displaced and other disadvantaged women such as refugee returnees from Dadaab to get back on their feet. There are 520 members of the association, according to chairperson Surer Mohamed Ali, each of whom pays $3 a month to the savings account. Seven women have now benefited from loans to set up in business.
Priority for receiving loans has been given to the neediest families. The minimum monthly repayment is just $3.
Savings and credit schemes like this are widespread across the country, where there are no banks offering loans to families without any capital.
Nafis Association in Somaliland has been running a similar scheme in Somaliland for four years, bringing poor women together and helping them manage savings that are paid out on a rotating basis. Nafis trains women on how to start and run a successful small business.
The director of Nafis, Abdirahman Osman Gas, told Radio Ergo the association had helped more than 16,000 women to become more productive and make independent livelihoods. He said the scheme allowed poor families to end their dependence on aid as a lifeline.