WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- WomenStrong International, a consortium of non-profit organizations in five nations supporting women-driven solutions to extreme urban poverty, announced today that its two-year-old savings program in Kenya will double in size this year, demonstrating how effective groups can be in helping lift women and families out of poverty.
WomenStrong's Kenya program, run by the respected Alice Visionary Foundation Project, will double in its third year of operations, growing from 120 women in eight groups to more than 240 in 16 groups in Kisumu, Kenya's third largest city.
Formal financial systems throughout the world fail to serve up to 70% of all small- and medium-sized, women-led businesses. Global investment firm Goldman Sachs estimates that closing this credit gap could raise per capita income an average of 12%. The savings groups, established and run by impoverished women themselves, have been long understood as an excellent mechanism for chipping away at global poverty.
WomenStrong and Alice Visionary refined a Village Group Savings and Loan model developed by CARE to amplify the monitoring, mentoring and training offered to support women on their journey from extreme poverty to reliable income. Women learn how to live healthier lives, manage family finances and run a business. Those further along on the journey mentor other women just beginning.
"Mentoring is the key to our program's success," said Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, Founder and Executive Director of WomenStrong International. "Women within groups mentor each other, and Alice Visionary mentors the groups, so that saving and borrowing is about more than loans: it's about learning, empowerment, and building networks that strengthen communities."
The results are measurable, with a 98% retention rate, organic growth through demand and total savings by the eight groups in 2015 of $56,483. WomenStrong pays trainers and mentors but does not incentivize the creation of groups. Success is not measured by numbers, but by lives transformed when a woman can earn an income.
The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development has reported that an increase to a woman's income of $10 has the same impact in improving children's nutrition and health as a $110 increase in a man's income.
In Kisumu, groups of about 20 self-selected women meet to save small amounts each week. The groups provide a secure place to save and the opportunity to borrow small amounts on flexible, agreed-upon terms. Interest charged on the loans becomes part of the pool of savings, as do fees and or fines charged to encourage business-like behaviors, such as punctuality. At the end of each "cycle" of 9 to 12 months, savings are shared out by members based on how much each person has put in, providing useful lump sums once a year.
The groups have been so successful that they've now formed links with the Bank of Africa, where individual women can, for the first time, open accounts and access other banking services.
ABOUT WOMENSTRONG INTERNATIONAL
WomenStrong International is a consortium of non-profit organizations in five nations supporting women-driven solutions to extreme urban poverty. Through our Consortium members in Ghana, Kenya, Haiti, India, and Washington, D.C., we help thousands of women and girls meet their 6 Essential Needs for health, shelter, safety, education, economic empowerment and a functioning urban environment. WomenStrong believes the path out of poverty and toward a more just and prosperous world can be found by making women strong.
SOURCE WomenStrong International