"I am a proud, independent, business owner." For millions of women like Christiana around the world access to ways to save and loan can mean all the difference for their livelihoods and that of their family's.
80% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and work mainly in farming. By giving people in farming communities better ways to lend, loan and save their money, we encourage stability, empower women and help children stay in school. Village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) do just that, especially in areas where banks are not accessible.
Rural families often depend on the success of harvests and demand for their crops. If yields are low, parents may not be able to afford to send their children to school and must send them to the fields to work instead. Finding other sources of income can change the lives of farming families around the world.
We spoke to Christiana about her journey from farming to becoming a business owner, and the successful launch of her brand-new movie theatre in rural Tanzania.
Q: Hi Christiana, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. How did this all begin?
I have been a part of a Village Savings and Loan Association since 2016, we were training on the VSLA methodology through ECLT’s supported project in the Tabora region. As part of the project we participated in training and received technical support on how to save, loan and invest. Being a part of this gave me the passion to find new sources of income which would help me to save more within the group and not depend financially on my husband. Once I had begun to save enough, I thought of the idea of introducing a movie theatre, as this would bring in a regular source of income.
My plan was to make sure I save a certain amount in every meeting and follow all rules according to the group constitution in order to fulfil my dream.
The first step was to take out a small loan from the VSLA and bult a small hut on the family plot in my village. Once my husband saw my dream becoming a reality, he began to support me by borrowing a TV and a decoder. With these items, I was ready to start welcoming clients to watch videos and shows.
The business began to take off, even more so when I started showing movies and football matches. I decided it was the right time to borrow again and expand my business. With my second loan, I improved the roof, invested in benches and seating, as well as decorations. After 2 years, I was ready to invest again, this time I bought a bigger flat screen TV and my own decoder.
Now I am my own boss and I run the cinema independently.
Q: How is the business going now?
Things are going great, showing local and international football leagues is bringing in plenty more money. I have paid back all my loans with the VSLA group, and the profit I am making is paying for my children’s school fees in primary and secondary education, and the rest I am still saving. I couldn’t have achieved this without the support of my fellow VSLA members, or my husband, and their financial business skills advice.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
My future plan is to expand my business beyond my village. I would like to provide a quality entertainment through movie theatres to reach many communities in a way that is friendly and reasonably price to meet customers’ needs.
Q: What advice do you have for other people like you?
_If there is one thing I have learned these last few years through launching my own business, it is that having other sources of income is very important for financial stability, rather than depending on the farming of just one crop.
Men should support their wives to be a part of VSLA groups to learn about managing finances, saving, and loaning. Women should feel empowered to find financial independence from their husbands.
Projects like this one should focus both on empowering women in business skills and finances as we make up a large proportion of the community and we have the ability to reduce poverty, which in turn means children go to school, and child labour is reduced.