The newest Voluntary Saving & Loans group, consisting of 15 women of varying ages, greeted us at their monthly meeting in a small two-room house. There were little plastic bowls on the floor. The group started with a prayer, led by one of the elder Gogos. Then, the monthly dues (20 ZAR) were collected from each and every member. The loan paid out in the previous month, plus 10 percent interest, were paid back into the second bowl; in total 7055 ZAR were collected. Once the amount was determined, each of the women stated how much she would like to borrow from the loan pot. At the end of the year, all of the money saved is distributed evenly amongst the women and they don’t have to pay it back.
The women told us they liked managing their own money. The group keeps them from using money for useless things. They also always tell each other what they need the borrowed money for, usually more long-term investments like corrugated sheet metal for their house or beads for their handcrafts or fertilizer for their gardens. The palpable solidarity, dynamic and established rules in the group support the women with respect to handling money.