Building Economic Resilience for Mothers and Caregivers of Adolescent Girls: One Step Forward
Poverty seems like an unexplainable phenomenon in Bashey village of Karatu District in northern Tanzania. With one planting season that lasts hardly three months per year, reliance on farming enterprises, and no local financial institutions, community members are simply out of work for the better part of the year, waiting for the next rainy season to make ends meet.
“This is the root cause of our misery here,” says the mother of five, Katarine Amsi (51), adding, “We have ideas, but it is very challenging to achieve them in these circumstances.” Household poverty and economic shocks contribute to a family’s decision to pull children, particularly girls, out of school and thus feeding into the cycle of poverty. In mid-2017, The Bantwana Initiative of World Education Inc. (WEI/Bantwana), through the Waache Wasome project, began forming community savings groups, popularly known as LIMCA (Livelihoods Improvement for Mothers and Caregivers of Adolescents). The LIMCA groups are designed to help mothers and caregivers develop social and economic safety nets within their community. These groups also ensure daughters’ continued education by strengthening socio-economic resilience, which increases family capacity to invest in girls’ education and reduces families’ reliance on negative coping mechanisms, such as forcing girls to drop out and work or get married in order to relieve household financial debt.
“The entire village knows that I have my shares in the group, and they increased their trust in me.” – Katarine Amsi
LIMCA groups meet weekly to collect savings contributions, make and monitor loan repayments, and issue new loans. In the coming year, WEI/Bantwana will layer a complementary component onto the LIMCA model: parenting skills building. In addition to discussing finances and business opportunities, the LIMCA community volunteer facilitators will lead parenting skills lessons for group members. WEI/Bantwana will incorporate a rights-based approach to gender into the curriculum in order to challenge harmful attitudes and practices that discriminate against girls and prevents families from investing equally in boys’ and girls’ education.
Although the Waache Wasome LIMCA implementation is only six months old and the additional component has yet to be incorporated, Bashey villagers have already diversified their income sources and stimulated growth in their household income through improving their low-risk income generating activities. Some have started to keep dairy cows and others make and sell bricks. Many of the members have multiple children, and some are widows, so the LIMCA savings and loans are crucial in protecting their families from economic vulnerabilities and shocks.
Members also report an increased level of trust in their villages, especially amongst group members, as they all take out and reliably pay back loans.
As of December 2017, a total of 614 villagers (524 women) had joined LIMCA in four wards in Karatu District. In six months, LIMCA group members have collected cumulative shares valued at 40.9 million Tanzanian Shillings ($18,400 USD), and they have issued loans to members worth just over 56.6 million shillings ($25,470 USD). In a district where per capita income is estimated at TZS 800,000, such savings is one big step toward building economic resilience.
Katarine Amsi (51) is a smallholder dairy farmer who keeps three cows. She joined LIMCA five months ago to enable her to improve her creditworthiness. “The entire village knows that I have my shares in the group, and they increased their trust in me” says Katarine. That ‘trust,’ according to Katarine, enables her to access labor on credit and take loans from the village shopkeeper for medicines and animal feed. She now keeps her dairy business free from stress.
Lydia Augustine (41) is a widow with five children (2 girls) and a member of a LIMCA group in Karatu District. During the off-season, she makes and sells baked bricks. Before joining LIMCA, she was making an average of 6,000 bricks per year. After joining LIMCA, she took a loan to buy firewood and hire an assistant, which allowed her to increase her brick production to 8,000 bricks. She hopes the extra bricks will significantly increase her business’s profit.
“These loans from LIMCA, albeit small in size have a positive impact on our livelihood” – Lydia Augustine
Waache Wasome works to improve enrollment and retention of adolescent girls in secondary school and influence harmful negative perceptions about the value of girls’ education.