In the rural community of Mbossedji, where agriculture is a way of life, a profound transformation is taking root. Thanks to the support from Bellevue Rotary Club, Washington, USA, and Rotary International, CREATE!’s income generation program is reshaping the lives of women such as Fama Thiam, Soda Lo, and Awa Dieye. It’s not just about financial support; it’s a catalyst for change, empowering women with financial autonomy that opens doors to new opportunities.

In the last couple of years, the women of Mbossedji have taken a monumental step forward by establishing their own Voluntary Savings & Lending Association (VSLA). This initiative is a significant stride as these women, equipped with essential financial skills from CREATE!’s technicians, embark on a collective journey of saving and accessing small loans. The initiative holds special significance for those facing barriers due to illiteracy, as VSLAs focus on inclusivity, providing a locally accessible solution that bridges the gap left by traditional banking institutions.

Voices from the Field: Stories of Transformation

The impact of VSLAs echoes through the heartfelt testimonials of community members, each narrating a unique story of transformation:

Fama Thiam shares how the initiative has profoundly impacted her life. “Thanks to the VSLA, I obtained a loan to buy agricultural equipment and quality seeds, significantly improving my productivity and income.” Overcoming the constraints of obsolete tools and poor-quality seeds, Fama broke the cycle, investing in modern farming techniques that elevated not only her harvests but also her financial well-being.

Soda Lo describes her journey, saying, “Since participating in the VSLA, I have managed my children’s education by taking out loans.” In a community where access to education is a significant challenge, affordable interest rates on VSLA loans empower families to cover the costs of education, from school fees to uniforms and supplies. The VSLA has also enabled Soda’s family to invest in income-generating activities, creating a virtuous circle where they can continue to invest in their children’s education.

Awa Dieye, the secretary of the Mbossedji VSLA, emphasizes the broader impact: “VSLA savings meet most of our needs, including significant impacts on the health of the community.” These loans address critical healthcare needs, covering medical expenses, medicines, and doctor’s consultations. Awa recounts a moment of crisis when her son fell ill while her husband was away. Thanks to VSLA, she secured the funds needed for his medical care, underscoring the program’s role in ensuring the health and well-being of those living in rural areas.

In Mbossedji, the VSLA initiative isn’t just about financial transactions; it’s about rewriting the narratives of women, empowering them to script their own stories of success, resilience, and prosperity. As these women continue their collective journey, the echoes of their transformation resonate not just in Mbossedji but serve as an inspiration for rural Senegalese communities far and wide.