By Diamonds for Peace Liberia Staff
Brief overview of the association
“Girls of Progress” is a small financial saving and loan club based in Kakata City, Margibi County, Republic of Liberia. It was established in October of 2012 by a group of young women who saw the need to create a system whereby people with intention to maximize profits through petty trade can have easy access to financial opportunities. Since being established, the club has run consistently until now and has helped many persons gain financial relevance. This form of saving is similar to the “Susu” but different in a few ways. In the case of the financial club, the members make savings and the club loans out cash to both members and none members with a certain interest rate. The debtors pay back the loan along with the interest within a fixed period. At the end of the saving year, the club shares the accumulated cash to all the members according to how much each member saved; the interest generated is also shared amongst the members according to how much they have each saved. In the case of “Susu”, the members of the Susu club each contribute fixed amount and give the total to one member at a time; the process continues until all the members have benefited equally. Then they begin another cycle.
Every year, the club celebrates its annual closing with a party, the 2018 saving year was of no exception. During the celebration, the members ate and drank to the success of the cycle. Some people who are not part of the group usually come to the party and get motivated to join the club the following year and so the club membership increases each year.
Method of saving
The members of the association meet weekly to mobilize savings; each member buys shares according to what h/she can afford. A single share value is LD$ 200 and a member is allowed to buy a maximum of 5 shares weekly. However, if a member wants to save more h/she can have the option to register multiple names and buy a maximum of 5 shares per each name; in this case the member can buy as much as h/she may want. During the saving meeting, the money counter receives and counts the money paid by each member for the purpose of buying shares, the secretary records the paid amount in the member saving pass book and in the association’s record book. The secretary makes sure that the record in the members saving pass books corresponds with the records in the association’s record book for consistency.
How are the saving activities beneficial to the members?
The members of the club find their membership with the group beneficial in many different ways. One way is that the club is unlike the bank where you have to go through long bureaucracy in order to access a loan and get collateral in the process and then pay back the loan with 15 – 18 percent interest rate. The club members get opportunities to easily access loans with an interest rate of 10% for a period of 3 months. What is even more interesting, is that they also share in the interest the club generates over the period of a cycle. In the club, it is convenient to make savings; unlike the bank where you have to stand in long queues and spend many hours to make one saving even with just a small amount. With these services available at the club, many of the members have been able to acquire land space and embark on building homes for their families. Others have been able to expand their businesses, while still others are placed in a better position to pay their bills (house rent, school fees etc.) on time. At the close of a cycle, the club organizes a program during which the annual financial and activities reports are presented. They also celebrate the success of the annual cycle with a party using the social funds contributed by all of the members during the current cycle period.
Persons eligible to become members
While it is beneficial to be a member of the association, not everyone can be member. The association thought it wise to set criteria for membership in order to have a level of control and run the activities smoothly. In view of this, membership in the association is subject to the following conditions:
- Membership is limited to persons between the ages 18 and 60.
- The members of the association must be residing in Kakata or its environs; this is to create the condition for the members’ regularity in the association’s meetings.
- Both sexes are eligible to become members.
- A person who has a record of consistent rude behavior cannot be a member.
Governance of the club
The Girls of Progress has by-laws by which its members are governed. The governance structure of the association consists of Chairman, General Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Money Counter and a Chaplain. Each of these officers has specific functions to discharge in order for the club to run its activities properly. The chairman presides over all the club meetings, ensures the club’s by-laws are enforced and h/she is responsible to design new programs/ideas for the growth and development of the club. The general secretary records all the financial transactions properly both in the members saving pass books and the club’s record book, records the minutes of all meetings and makes annual activities and financial reports. The assistant secretary takes record of attendants in each meeting and helps the general secretary keep the records, especially when the general secretary is absent from a meeting. The money counter receives and properly checks all cash paid during meetings and makes deposits to the bank of the cash collected. The chaplain is responsible to offer prayer before and after all meetings. The members work with the officials in keeping with the by-laws to ensure the cycle runs and ends successfully.
Saving money with banking institutions is a better idea because it prevents your money from being stolen or eaten by rats. However, many persons are not interested in going to the bank mostly because they don’t have enough to save; others are reluctant because they don’t want to go to the bank often given that the process at most Liberian banks are very slow. In view of this, many persons would prefer to join small financial saving and loan groups where they can save conveniently and also get opportunity to access loan and maximize their incomes. Whatever the case, saving in general is a better idea because it helps you to plan well and make the most of your income.
Front Photo:Club chair lady addresses members during the annual closing program(DFP)