Jacqueline Ntunzwenimana, 21, is a seamstress who operates her business out of her home in Musaga, Burundi. Jacqueline was able to start her business with a loan she acquired through her solidarity group's microfinance activities as part of CARE's ISHAKA program.
This Nike-funded program seeks to address empowerment needs of adolescent girls, the majority of whom are sexually active, by focusing on savings and loan solidarity groups as well as education on rights, literacy and sexual and reproductive health.
Originally designed for women, CARE adapted our village savings and loan program to socially and economically empower girls and young women, aged 14-22, in Burundi. Thus far, more than 12,000 youth have benefited, with another 8,000 targeted. ISHAKA’s three objectives are:
- To provide 20,000 young women with individual skills and capacities to access financial services and make informed choices to ensure economic and social security;
- To reinforce the social networks and safety nets of 20,000 young women by participation in solidarity groups; and
- To achieve cultural and policy norms that allow young women to access informal and formal financial services and also make informed decisions about use of their own resources.
Girls are organized into groups and make regular deposits into a group fund, of which 80 percent is dedicated towards a savings and loan fund and 20 percent towards social causes, or a rainy-day fund. Once enough savings has amassed, the members can take out loans to invest in income-generating activities, such as starting a small business. Along the way, CARE-trained mentors oversee the groups and train the girls in financial education, life skills, and sexual and reproductive health. Financial resources give girls the leverage they need to control what happens in their lives, while training and access to a mentor and social network gives them the information they need to safeguard their own well-being.
And it’s working! CARE’s success in implementing ISHAKA led us to present our findings at the 2010 Making Cents International Global Youth Enterprise Conference.
We found that 11,577 girls saved a total of $38,000.00 in 613 solidarity groups – and generated almost $150,000 through their own businesses and other income-generating enterprises. That’s not all. Results also included reduced gender-based violence, improved safety, greater capacity to meet basic needs without reliance upon men and boys, increased solidarity and confidence among girls. In addition, the moms in the group now have greater access to birth certificates for their children, allowing children to access basic, government services, such as medical care and education.