By Amber Persson

The COVID-19 pandemic has devasted countries across the world but has also led to an increased sense of community and compassion between people. In countries like Niger, community-building can help families survive the ongoing pandemic. One such community-building activity is the creation of women’s savings groups, which help families persevere amidst the grave uncertainty we are all facing.

A wonderful thing can happen when women and girls no longer have to walk miles to collect freshwater because a new well has been drilled: they are given the gift of time. With their extra time, many women and girls choose to become involved in women’s savings groups as an opportunity to become more financially independent. Typically, women’s saving groups consist of about 15-25 women in a village who pool a small amount of savings each week that other women in the group can borrow and payback. As part of the program, women are often taught income-generating tasks like making biscuits or sewing in addition to learning the basic math skills they need to manage their money.

A savings group in Niamey where women were taught how to make and sell millet cakes and peanut oil.

Source: Wells Bring Hope

The culture of borrowing and paying back money through a women’s savings group allows many mothers to pay tuition and fees for their children’s education and with time, they are able to become financially independent through their small businesses. It gives families a sense of financial stability, even during the pandemic.

A savings group in Chadakori where women were taught how to make food out of Acacia seeds.

Source: Wells Bring Hope

The families of women involved in savings groups are more likely to cope better with the pandemic and less likely to face food insecurity than those who are not involved. Microfinancing also boosts the sense of morale and community outside of the savings groups. Near the beginning of the pandemic, one savings group led by Aïchatou Cheitou took their sewing efforts to produce and sell over 10,000 masks for residents of Niger. They also produced soap and ointments that were distributed among the members of the group.

Efforts like these have helped many Nigerien families survive the pandemic and hopefully, their communities will emerge stronger because of it.