VSLA – a strategy for social and economical change in DR Congo

As a charity we have been running Village Savings and Loans (VSLA) projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2014/15. Our in country Project Manager, Bercky Zihindula, has been a instrumental in making the projects in the DRC have the maximum benefit and impact for the communities that we are working in.  We are currently focused on one region of the DRC, South Kivu, you can see the region on the map below.

The DRC is a country with great need and our projects are targeting three demographic groups within the South Kivu region;

  • Vulnerable women
  • Pygmy communities
  • People with disabilities

The DRC is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world with 64% of the population living below the poverty line. Women are amongst the most vulnerable, with about one third having been exposed to sexual violence and more than half subjected to violence in close relationships.

The Pygmies are the Indigenous People of the Democratic Republic of Congo and a vulnerable minority. With limited resources and opportunities, the Pygmies are facing increasing marginalisation, and social and economic impoverishment(e.g., poor health, alcoholism, loss of idenity, social fragmentation, and limited access to schooling).

The disabled are another marginalised people group in the DRC. Figures estimate that there are around 11 million people in the DRC living with disability according to the country’s Ministry of Health. Most physically disabled people have limited access to education, healthcare and employment and live in poverty as a result.

Our projects in the DRC are bringing opportunity to marginalised communities by;

  • Teaching and training them to save money on a weekly basis
  • Providing them access to small loans to start income generating activities
  • Providing business and enterprise training to increase income generating activities
  • Providing leadership skills
  • Providing an increase in dignity for individuals and communities through ownership and social responsibility.

Our projects have directly impacted over 5,000 people in the DRC since 2014. Below is one story from one vulnerable woman who joined one of our projects in 2019.

Ms Denise M’MUHARABU

“I am so happy for the initiative of the saving group brought by EPIC in our village. When we started the training, frankly I did not know I could continue and finish even one cycle because I thought for me saving would be impossible. I kept observing and observing. After receiving the training I finally started to gain confidence and integrated with my entire heart and mind into the project. I found that with VSLA methodology, us who were before excluded, can own our savings and decide on our loans. I gained complete hope and from the loan I received, I bought bananas that I sell have repaid the loan. I like the participation decision-making on the social fund that makes all of us equal and makes our relationship sustainable.

I am glad I reached the end of the savings cycle, you can’t imagine what my joy was. Advantages I have received during this first cycle is that (1) now I do not depend 100% on my husband, (2) I contribute to my family’s revenue, I can pay school fees for my children and expect all my four children will resume school next cycle, (3) I have also purchased cement to pave my house, and (4) I have gained respect for the family and community. Thank you This Is EPIC and thank you Guernsey.”


HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Our work focuses on empowering community driven change and providing a help up rather than a handout.

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