The power of people working together in support of each other has never been more evident than what we came across in Buzibirira, a rural village in central Uganda.
On one of our visits to check on the welfare and families of the children we have helped support, we found a group of women sitting together having a meeting. There was a metal box with five locks on it, and a ledger book in the center of the group. Curious, we asked to visit and through an interpreter learned about the group.
The group was started to help the women pay for the burial of family members, and to help each other financially. They called themselves Muno Mukabi, which means “a friend in bad times.” The AIDS epidemic in Uganda has left many women and grandparents to raise their children and grandchildren.
The women set up a system where each month they would put money into the locked box. There were two treasurers who would record the amounts paid in by each person. The five key system ensured that the group would need to meet to give out requested funds. It was important to the group that the money could not be stolen and had to be used for a specific purpose.
The women quickly came to realize the power they had working together and wanted to support each other starting businesses. We were so impressed by this group of strong, forward thinking women, that we wanted to find a way to help. After a couple more trips to the village, we invested $240. gathered from a small group of friends in the U.S.
Three years later the group now calls itself Muno Mu Bulungi, which means, “Your friend in good times.” Micro loans have been given to 33 of the members and there are 48 women, (and a few progressive men!) in the group. Many small businesses have been started by the members which are helping them to support themselves and pay for their children to go to school. The initial investment has now multiplied five times over!
The loans are paid back with interest, over a set period of time and they have a clear structure of how the loans are made and repaid. One of the biggest benefits of this group is the business advice and support they are able to give each other.
This amazing group has now been recognized by the local government as a model for community-based micro loans which is helping them attract more capital for the group. The Children’s Legacy Partnership will be using this model and the expertise of the local women to help other communities.