VSLA: The Game Changer

Written by: Madalitso Banda

Decades of experience have shown CARE that when you empower a woman or girl, she becomes a catalyst for change in her community. When you give her a chance to start a business, learn to read, or participate in politics, she can create ripples of change that lift up men, boys and communities as well.

Since 2009, CARE has helped empower women in the Kasungu District through village savings and loan associations (VSLAs). One such woman is Damalesi Phiri, a mother of three in the Kanyanda Village.

“Each time I am asked about my past, how it used to be? I break down and cry, for it was horrible. Poverty makes a person act as a mad person. I was poor and poverty was finishing me off. We were hungry, we lacked, and I thought the end was near. Imagine me, a divorcee with three children, facing life without a husband with no source of income. Life became scary,” she described.

“When CARE came and started mobilising women to form groups and start a savings and loan association, we were very reluctant in the way that we thought tobacco growing was the only way to survive, even though tobacco buyers were robbing us,” she continued.

Our Future VSLA is one of the oldest VSLAs in Kanyanda Village, located in the rural Kasungu district of Malawi. The VSLA was formed in 2009 and by 2010, it had brought a light of hope to the life of Damalesi Phiri.

“From the share of money in 2010, I started moulding bricks, and I built this house in 2011. And from that year on, I have been buying fertilizer and I farm different types of crops, mainly maize. I bought iron sheets and renovated this house. As of today, I rent out my house to 15 school girls that use it as a boarding hostel, and I moved to the smaller house,” she shared.

“VSLA is a game changer. I now have pigs and I am no longer hungry. I have food that I share with others in need. When I got in touch with CARE through being a member of ‘Our Future’ VSLA, I transformed and learned how to become self-reliant and entrepreneurship-minded,” she explained.

“Come next year and see what I am intending to do. I want to build another house there and increase number of houses to rent out to the students, as the demand is increasing each school year. I am still dreaming – CARE has taught me to dream, and I am living by it.”