Women of Vasakena ward in Mbokona are on the move in empowering each other to involve in small business activities as means to earn an income.
And through the South Pacific Business Development Foundation (SPBD) micro-finance scheme, the women’s dreams are slowly turning to reality.
SPBD is a network of microfinance organizations working in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Solomon Islands dedicated to eradicating poverty by empowering women in poor rural villages with the opportunity to start, grow and maintain sustainable, income generating micro-enterprises.
The women in Vasakena, who are housewives and market vendors, call themselves the self-employed group who live in one neighbourhood but with no salaries or a fortnight income.
They have started their group back in 2014 purposely to help each other in small income generating activities.
They were inspired by other women in Honiara who are involved in business and with access to a loan from SPBD, their efforts has finally paid off.
The group’s leader, Arlene Ben said groups and communities have to go through certain steps in order to access a loan from SPBD.
“You have to be from one centre in any particular community.
“From there your details and what kind of business you are operating, this is for those who already ventured into small business, but for the new ones what kind of business they want to operate will be recorded,” she said.
“After that a particular women from a particular group will then attend trainings conducted by SPBD before groups or as individuals can submit their business plan and their saving accounts to be able t access a loan,” she added.
Ms Arlene said as group leader, she wants to see women progress in their business activities.
“But in order to achieve this, we need to work together, respect each other and keep the spirit of team work going,” she said.
Maxson, a representative from SPBD, recently held a meeting with the women of Vasakena when he encouraged them to remain committed to their group.
“If you want a good record of yourself, perform well and do payments for your loans on the date set and what amount it requires of you,” the SPBD representative said.
SPBD provides small, unsecured loans of around US$400 to groups of rural women, who invest these loans into businesses based on their existing livelihood skills. They are given training, ongoing guidance and motivation for the purpose of helping them to grow these small income generating endeavors so that they can work their way out of poverty. This is a very structured program with clear rules.
Peer Group Support
All SPBD members are part of a self-chosen group of four to seven women. In each village there might be two to five SPBD groups. The members of the peer groups support and guarantee one another. They are the first line of approval on all new business plans and loan applications of their group members. They act as weekly guarantors on all loan repayments and they play a vital role in the ongoing guidance and motivation of each SPBD micro-entrepreneur. For example, if a client falls ill, her circle helps with her business until she is well. If a client gets discouraged, the support group pulls her through. This contributes substantially to the extremely high repayment rate of loans made to
From the second loan onwards, members are also and encouraged to invest the proceeds of their loans for basic housing improvement and childhood education. SPBD helps to ensure the children of all our members receive a proper education by providing financing to pay for school fees, school uniforms, and textbooks.
SPBD helps to improve the healthiness of our member’s homes by providing financing for basic housing improvements such as obtaining access to electricity, running piped water, proper sanitation, building a secure foundation for their home (instead of a dirt floor) and to place a tin roof on their home (instead of a grass roof).
SPBD has weekly meetings in the local villages with all its members. At these meetings all SPBD related business takes place, including business training modules, review of business plans, loan applications and approvals, weekly loan repayments, savings deposits, and ongoing business mentoring and coaching.
It is expensive and difficult for the poor to open bank accounts at traditional commercial banks. SPBD helps our members save for a rainy day and to develop good financial habits by providing a basic savings service. By saving with SPBD, members have a safe and convenient place to make small and regular savings deposits.
SPBD faces limited direct competition as the commercial- and Development Banks each require collateral or a steady income for micro/small business financing. SPBD is one of the only financial institutions able to deliver credit in Samoa, Tonga, or Fiji individually and to provide on a large scale completely unsecured credit to the poor.
SPBD offers a loan- and life insurance product to all its members. In the event of a member’s death, her family receives a benefit. This assurance of no hardship on the remaining family is something that many of our members greatly value.
SPBD serves women living in both rural and peri-urban areas who are vulnerable to the consequences of poverty. These include single mothers, the unemployed, minorities, the poor in health, the disabled, the unbanked, and potential victims of domestic violence. Of the total number of loans distributed:
• 99% go to women
• 80% go to clients living in rural areas
• 40% go to single mothers
SPBD expects to see a positive ripple-effect flowing through to the formal economy and society at large as more micro-businesses are started and more individuals gain access to work in the formal economy.