Because of CEFA's partnership with Covenant World Relief, Nadege and Benoit have attended two of the all-Africa conferences in Bamenda, Cameroon (2014) and Pietermeritsburg, South Africa (2017) and at those conferences they were able to not only hear about Self-Help groups, but see them in action. As a result, Nadege and a few women in the Gamboula area started their own self-help group for over a year now and it has grown to over 60 women! This year, 2018, they asked for Benoit's assistance in helping them with a better understanding of the principles of running a self-help organization and then actually putting their by-laws down on paper, as an official document. I was privileged to witness the second and final training session done by Benoit and this is what I learned:
1) The name of the group: Gbaya (tribal) is Kine Komet which says one must work with their hands to avoid hunger. In French, they call themselves L'Association des les Femmes Solidairees which is the Association of Unified Women.
2) They meet the second and fourth Sunday afternoons of each month and must contribute 200 (35 cents) cfa to the general bank. For new members it is 500 (90 cents) cfa to start. They can put in whatever amount they wish in their own account.
3) They are allowed to borrow from the general bank no more than 10,000 ($18) cfa, they must repay it back within 2 months, and they must give a 10% interest on top of what they borrowed. Thus, a 10,000 cfa loan would require an 11,000 cfa payment after two months.
4) They are discouraged to use the loans for dead end needs such as payment of government taxes or even for personal immediate needs (there is a special fund for this). They are encouraged to invest the loan into some sort of business that will pay for itself and make a profit. No one has yet borrowed as they are still waiting for the general bank to grow (this started in August of this year).
I encouraged them to keep God and Jesus in the middle of all this to make it not just a solid money-making scheme, but a good witness of fellowship between God and His people, thanking especially Him for His provision, thus encouraging others to start their own group.
I then later visited one of their twice a month meetings and 52 women showed up out of 60 which is an impressive attendance showing! There was a lot of conversation back and forth as they discussed issues in their lives and were making plans for their annual party in which important government officials were invited. A hot topic was the threat of rebels moving closer to Gamboula, but Nadege spoke out and said that they can still move on with this movement as "the rebels cannot stop us from doing what we are doing!"
Pray for these women as they embrace this new movement to make a positive change not only in their lives but in the community despite the collapse of security. A big thank you to the women of South Africa and Cameroon for setting such a good example for the women of CAR to model!
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