microfinance

Microfinance: Savings Clubs named Remember and Love

By Bernice Yalley

The village of Worla, though not expansive, has decided to create two savings clubs. It would have been difficult to manage a club of 50 people and so they neatly bisected themselves. The first group has called themselves Remember and is now going through the process of electing a chairperson. I am one of the designated vote collectors and so I am standing outside, discretely hidden in the shade of a plantain tree with one of the field agents, Pa Willie. Remember participants file past and drop rocks into either my or Pa Willie’s bowl voting for their candidate of choice. I laugh as an old woman rocks her hips and dances away after placing her stone. In the decision between the two candidates, a woman or a man, the woman won by a landslide. Evidently she is someone the rest of the community recognizes as a strong leader, someone hardworking and well respected. It doesn’t matter that she can neither read nor write. She can lay down the law.

Members of the second group, Love, were absent on this the first day of meeting because they had to rush someone by road to the local hospital in Phebe, maybe 15 kilometers away. I was asked if we saw a posse of people carrying someone in a hammock, I said no. The driver hadn’t noted it either. I learned on the second day I visited the community that the sick person, a woman, had died in labor before she could reach the hospital. Because she had passed away while carrying a baby in her womb, the community would not bury her in the village. She is laid to rest along a lonely stretch of road in an unmarked common grave. The villagers were understandably subdued this morning but continued with the training. In communities such as these, where death is a tangible part of their lives, living and dying, past and present, young and old feel as if they are inextricably linked in a slowly twisting circle.

Bernice Yalley is a CRS fellow working in Liberia on savings-led microfinance projects. Her posts appear Mondays on the CRS blog.

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