The importance of group leaders

TEVI Foundation works with groups of women as a strategy to guarantee repayments. It is the only way to force some of the women to save money and use it correctly in order to make their business successful, generate more profit and be able to repay the given loan.

Therefore, women are put into groups of five, frequently according to a neighborhood basis. No family ties are allowed in the same group. Every group has a leader that has previously proved to be responsible, and who will be in charge of the rest of the group if something happens. When women have problems to make the repayments, these group leaders are the ones in charge of speaking with them and trying to solve the problem, many times based on their own experience.

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That is why most of the times group leaders are older than the rest because age has proved to be a key factor. Older women are aware of the importance of investing the loans in their business because it is the only way of making profit with them. When micro credits are spent in other things (such as clothes or accessory things) it is impossible for the women to repay on time, as the money that was supposed to be used to increase their business capital has disappeared.

The group leaders are also the ones in charge of regrouping the rest in order to make the repayments on a specific date. This day is normally one week after receiving the money, as this way they will have enough time to invest and get some money back. They are given a timetable, and they must adapt to it.

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Verification: Who should get another microcredit

The process of applying for a microcredit, getting it and repaying it is long, and most of the time takes some years. This is due to all the steps that must be followed, by the foundation and by the beneficiaries as well.

 We’ve already talked about the follow-up process that must be followed when the women are not able to repay the loans. But some of them perform really well and repay on a weekly basis: those are the ones that normally have access to the following microcredits. But before they get them, the field officers must go to the verification process, just to be sure that the women deserve the loans and that they are making the most of them.

Verificating the businesses of the women is a hard work, and is carried out without letting them know that they will be visited. As they have already proven that they are performing really well, most of the time this kind of visit is simple. The field officer gets there, checks how the business goes and has a little chat with the beneficiary. It is then when they are let known that they will be given another microcredit. It is also the moment when they congratulated for their performance, because not all of the beneficiaries –for one or other reason- are able to fulfill the repayments.

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Fatuma Uliza is one of them. 50 year old women, we find her close to the sokoni, where she lives and works. She has been a cook all her life, and now spends all her nights cooking rice, meat and beans in the street: from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. It is a good moment to make businesses, as people still in the street and shops still open. Before her first microcredit she also used to cook, but she had less capital. That is why she decided to go for a microcredit, because she needed more money to cover her expenses. Now, she has been able to pay her young child’s school fees. She receives some help from her husband, who is a carpenter, but he does not always have a job.

Now she is waiting to receive a second microcredit, and is thinking of investing it in a fruit business to be run during the day by her children. She knows she is going to be able to repay it because during the weekend she also cleans clothes for other people. She knows that working hard is a key to be able to repay.

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Husna has been a tailor for all her life. She decided to apply for a microcredit because she wanted to improve her life standard and couldn’t think of a better way. Having had access to credit has changed her life, and has allowed her to increase her number of businesses.

With her first microcredit apart from increasing her capital, she decided to go for school bags and uniforms, and now this has become her most successful business. And that is very important for her, because her four children depend on her, and although she has her husband’s help this is not always enough to cover the expenses. She has performed really well and has become an example for many of the beneficiaries. That is why now she is waiting for her second microcredit.

These two women are two examples not only for the rest of beneficiaries, but also for their communities: a chance was given to them, and they have known how to take advantage of it.