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Gaining Skills and Confidence Through VSLA

Written By: Madalitso Banda

When Mary Phiri from the Kantimbo Village in Malawi became a member of M’deka Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) group way back in 2011, little did she know that her family would be living in an iron-roofed home using the money from her savings. Mary lost her husband in 2006, leaving her alone in a mud-made house with a grass, thatched roof, which often leaked during the rainy season. The 47-year-old could not imagine that just a few years later, she would become able to support herself and her four grandchildren, too.

In addition to losing her husband, Mary also lost her first born son, Charles, in 2008. She describes, “My hope for recovery was fading. Desperation and pressure were mounting, and I was having sleepless nights.”

“When I heard that there was a meeting organized by CARE, I was hesitant to join at first, because it was hard to visualize if there was any benefit at all,” she laughed. She added, “But education is important, and it helps you to see things differently. I hardly remember completing three years of primary school education.”

CARE’s VSLA programs have transformed the lives of many who have embraced them and passionately dedicated themselves to learning new skills. For Mary, participating in a VSLA equipped her with valuable tools to support her farm and her baking business.   

"In 2012, for my first time in my life, I made a profit and used part of it to boost my baking business while the other share I used to buy iron sheets. I finished building this house in 2015, and you can see it has a roof of iron sheets,” she paused and proudly pointed to show me her burnt brick house, which is built next to the old family house left by her late husband.

“When I finished building this house I became confident that I can achieve more,” Mary explained. “I never thought that one day I would be farming a full acre of maize and be able to apply four bags of fertilizer in my maize garden.”

The profits that VSLA participants gain may look insignificant to others, but in a country in which the vast majority of people earn less than a dollar a day, VSLAs are making huge difference in the lives of the members.

“There is high demand of VSLA in the neighbouring villages, due to what they are seeing in us,” Mary concluded.