Swahili for Love
Written by a Convoy of Hope team member
As we pull into the Ilkiding’a village in Tanzania, children smile and wave as we pass by. It had rained the day before, but the sun was out now leaving the air feeling fresh and everything greener than ever.
We pull into a gated area that holds a beautiful church and some additional buildings. We are surrounded by beautiful trees, plants and crops that have been planted and carefully landscaped. The air is so clean and fresh, I can’t help but take a deep breath just to soak it all in.
As we get out of the truck, I hear a gospel choir practicing in the church. The full sounds echo out of the church and carry quietly into the smaller building next door where a Convoy of Hope Women’s Empowerment group is meeting. The self-named Upendo (Swahili for “love”) Group gathers here every Wednesday afternoon for a micro-finance meeting.
About a dozen women gather closely together in the concrete room, bearing nothing but a chalkboard and some wooden benches. Attendance is taken, a prayer is said and they get straight into business.
Each week, the women of this group come together to buy shares and discuss their financial situation. A box appears and three women that have been appointed officers of the group each have their own individual keys to collectively open the box that contains their money, share books and check ledgers. The group keeps the money in rotation by lending it out and making a profit from fines, interest and gifts.
Grace Petro, 50, is the chairwoman of the Upendo Group and is the sole provider for her family. Her husband has health issues and she has seven children and 16 grandchildren that rely on her for many of their basic needs, such as school fees and food.
Grace says her situation has improved drastically since joining the program. “We can’t just go out and get a loan,” she says. “But now, we have a place where we can contribute and borrow.”
The women in the group have the option to purchase the minimum of one share a week or the maximum of five shares a week. Since the program started in November, Grace has purchased the maximum (five shares) every week. “It’s not easy,” Grace recalls. “But I see it as an investment.”
Grace is just one of thousands of women whose lives have been transformed through Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment initiative.
Her advice to other women is to awaken their brains. “If your brain is stagnant, you’re not moving forward.”