Savings group helps empower women in South Sudan

Empowered women are leading the transformation of communities in South Sudan. Here is a success story about how a village savings and loans activity, through the European Union-funded FORESITE Project, equips community members, especially women, on how to manage finances and business. 

"My husband was the family's only hope, but not anymore," says Achel, a homemaker, business owner, and mother of five. With the steady income she gets from her thriving food business, she can now help her husband provide for their family and community. 

Achel and her entire household depended solely on her husband Adhar, a cattle keeper. Adhar's income was barely enough to support the needs of their growing family. "We could not even afford proper education and healthcare for our children," Achel recalls.

Things started to change gradually in 2021 when she joined her community's Savings 4 Transformation (S4T) group. The S4T works as a village savings and loans activity to equip community members, especially women, to manage finances and business. S4T is part of the Food Security and Resilience in Transitioning Environments (FORESITE) that aims to promote a culture of savings, livelihood diversification, and social cohesion in rural communities in Warrap State.

Tesfu Tesfay, World Vision's FORESITE director, explains, "An S4T group saves together safely, conveniently, and flexibly. It is low cost, community-led, owned and managed by the members using a simple, transparent method that accumulates and converts small amounts of cash into savings."

In partnership with the Norwegian Refugee Council, Association of Volunteers in International Service, and World Vision, community members, such as Achel, receive training on proper savings, leadership business skills, record keeping, and loan association processes and requirements. The FORESITE Project is funded by the European Union. Currently, there are 25 S4T groups in Warrap.

"We formed a savings group of 21 females and four males after the training. Each member gives South Sudanese pounds (SSP) 2,500 (approximately $20) monthly. We share ideas, work as a team and support each other as all of us are fighting poverty and hunger not only in our homes but the community as well," says Achel.

A few months after the training, Achel became eligible to take a loan from the group. Using the $200 loan as her capital, she set up a small restaurant and a teashop selling peanut paste and baked items. Later that year, she could repay her loan from her business' profit. 

Achel’s business


According to Achel, running a business was not easy. "I've had a rough start. It was hard to make a profit because of inflation. But I kept saving and re-investing my daily profits into the business. I was determined to see the business grow. I am proud because I have seen tremendous progress due to my tireless efforts."

Currently, Achel earns a daily income of SSP 33,000 ($55) from her business.

"I now support my husband in buying food, clothing, paying school fees, medical care, and shelter," she says. They were able to enroll their children in good schools and can now afford to pay for proper health care for their family.

"I give my huge thank you to the FORESITE project for supporting me and my community and showing us the way to get out of poverty. With the income I get from my business, I am able to hire ten workers from my community. I do my best to give back to my community. I have gained confidence in business management, and I plan to open a bigger restaurant next year," she proudly shares.

To date, the FORESITE project has supported 72 S4T groups in South Sudan with a total membership of 1,897. Most of the members are women, as the project also aims to strengthen women's role in their communities through activities promoting gender equity, women empowerment, and resilience-building.

"The groups encouraged members to cultivate a savings culture, promote social solidarity, empowerment, and intra-ethnic social cohesion," Tesfay states.

The FORESITE project also supports other activities relating to technical vocational training, farming and gardening, peacebuilding, tree-planting, and promotion of gender male champions in communities. 


Story and photos by Peter Athian, Norwegian Refugee Council Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning Officer for the FORESITE-EU Project, and World Vision South Sudan FORESITE team