Mothers Self-Help Groups Programme
What is a mother’s self-help group
- It is a group of mothers, generally between 10 and 20, who meet every month.
- Each mother pays a small membership fee and each mother saves about Rs.100 per month. This is the equivalent to a day’s income.
- They operate like a credit union. One mother will apply for a small loan and the others will decide whether she is a good risk. All of their savings are continually relent within the group.
- Most of these mothers are illiterate, but they’re trained to keep records of their subscriptions, their savings and their loans with the help of the staff member.
- Applications for our income generation loans are made through these groups. Each group effectively guarantees the loan of each of its members. If a mother cannot make her repayment, the group will make up the shortfall to ensure the creditworthiness of the group stays intact.
- We recently added more mothers and more groups. In Jan 2017, there were 175 groups and 3194 mothers. The new groups were opened in villages where we had an existing group so that our staff members could cope with the additional numbers. There is huge demand in villages for membership of our self-help groups, due to our income generation loans.
Why not fathers?
Mothers tend to work better together in a group. They tend to communicate better with their peers. Almost every group has a man in attendance in a situation where his wife for some reason cannot attend. We also have some male members, which would typically be widowers.
Why would a mother join a group?
- It is conditional on the child sponsorship programme that she joins a group.
- We provide training courses in various topics such as sanitation and health and rights
- Each group becomes like a small family where they lookout for each other and each other’s children.
- We employ community healthcare nurses who visit families in their homes. Many illiterate families are not aware that medication or visit to a hospital could solve a simple medical problem.
- Each mother will be covered by life assurance policy, the beneficiary is the child to ensure that funds are available to continue the child’s education in the event of the mother’s death.
- The reason for supporting these groups is to mobilise mothers to help one another to keep children in school.
- They provide a structure for small microfinance loans and to act as a platform for women’s solidarity. Our partner Child Aid Trust processes applications for membership of mothers’ self-help groups and channels the microfinance family income generation programme through these groups.
- The groups meet monthly and each group has a president, secretary and treasurer.
- Each meeting is attended by a Child Aid Trust fieldworker who audits the records and minutes of the meetings kept by mothers. They are vigilant for issues or problems among families and making women aware of their rights in a male dominated society.
- Members provide support for each other e.g. if a child is at risk of being taken out of school, the group reports to the field worker who goes to the family to discuss and make the case for keeping the child in school.
At the first meeting of a newly formed self-help group in 2014 a mother, who has four children, told the group that she was selling one of her 18-month-old twins as she could not afford to keep all of her children. This was a new group where child sponsorship is not normally available immediately. In this case we agreed to sponsor one of her children. Another child was put into a boarding school and the problem was solved. In time she will qualify for a micro-finance income generation loan which will change the family’s situation forever.