Destiny Children’s Savings Group (DCSG) is a record breaker in Sierra Leone’s long- history—for the first time in Sierra Leone, children are owning and running their own Savings Group (SG) and championing the child protection cause in their community within Jaiama Bongor Chiefdom in Bo District in Southern Sierra Leone. The initiative which was born in December 2014 during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, is blossoming. The group was formed during a time that the entire country experienced a nine-month school closure. Children followed their parents to their SG activities and developed interest. Lives are changing, skills are developing, and capacity is being built.
It’s amazing what these wonderful children have been able to achieve since joining the SG. SGs are not only proving to be a viable alternative for the vast number of people unlikely to be served by modern-day banking systems and/or financial institutions, but they are becoming a catalyst for enhanced social and economic development, improved gender relations, unity, social capital, leadership (at all levels), trust and community ownership. Members get access to loans very easily, in order to solve a whole lot of problems—including paying school fees for children and buying school materials.
Members of DCSG are now using SG as a platform for expressing their disquiet over issues posing a threat to their well-being. Child Protection has become a key component in the children’s SG.
Esther, a 16-year-old girl inspired by the group’s unity, now leads the DCSG. ‘’I am not a founding member of the group. I joined during the second cycle, seeing the unity the group demonstrated,’’ she recalls. Members in the group are between the ages of 10- 16.
Esther and her colleagues have been championing child protection in their community. ‘’A colleague of ours (in Jaiama Bongor Chiefdom) was sexually abused. As a group, we mobilized and reported the matter to our Kids Club facilitators who helped us take the issue further. The culprit was apprehended, charged in court and is serving a jail term,’’ Esther joyfully explains. ‘’We have also been reaching child mothers (girls who once got pregnant at an early age, having their babies to look after and have dropped out of school), to see the need for going back to school,’’ she further explains.
Destiny has also been involved in sensitizing parents who do not see the need to allow their children to join children’s SG. ‘’When I joined the group, a couple of friends also expressed interest, but their parents would not let them. So we started a community-wide sensitisation, making parents know that it’s the children’s right to belong and participate, as long as they are guided and guarded.’’
One frequently asked question is: where do children get their money to pay their contribution. Mohamed, 10, the first person to take a loan in the group since it was established, has this to say: ‘’Our parents give us lunch money every day. So we save a portion of our money in order to pay our contribution.’’
One good thing the SG has done in communities is the fact that mothers are able to save some money to cater for their children’s needs. Most, if not all DCSG members’ parents also belong to adult SGs in Koribondo.
World Vision has been supporting the children with training in leadership, money management, numeracy skills, etc. Most, if not all members of children’s SG are beneficiaries of World Vision’s Child Protection programming in communities. But more needs to be done in order to catalyze a movement to End Sexual Violence in Sierra Leone. And this is where It Takes a World to End Violence Against Children Campaign comes in.
As of June 2017, there are 789 SGs in World Vision’s operational areas in Sierra Leone—including DCSG. Destiny has not only broken a record, but it has also become a role model for others to emulate. In 2014, there was one children’s SG. It has given birth to seven more. Now, there are eight children’s SGs within World Vision’s operational areas in Sierra Leone.
Destiny Children’s Savings Group is making and sharpening Sierra Leone’s future leaders. Esther thinks she has learnt a lot in terms of leadership, and this puts her on good footing to serve in any capacity.
‘’This group has made me bold and given me the confidence to lead. At home, I am able to care for and provide leadership for my younger siblings when my parents are away. At school, I am a class prefect. I can even provide leadership to a hundred people,’’ she concludes.
Savings Group is a core project model for World Vision and is proving to be a vibrant resilient mechanism for rural communities.