Comic Relief and Jersey Overseas Aid are making a difference

By Emma Stevenson, Head of Funded Partnerships, Comic Relief

For Red Nose Day 2022, Comic Relief celebrate some of the incredible work their partners are doing to help change lives in communities around the world.

As Red Nose Day 2022 returned on Friday 18th March, we wanted to celebrate some of the incredible work our partners are doing to help change lives in communities around the world.

We have been working with Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA) since 2018, running a jointly funded four-year programme which aims to bring about financial inclusion for women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Our programme, Branching Out: Financial Inclusion at the Margins, aims to provide more people with access to bank accounts, savings groups, insurance and credit, to offer low-income households practical tools to better plan for the future, to achieve long-term goals and also be prepared for unexpected emergencies.

Since 2018, together Comic Relief and JOA have supported eight organisations through 19 different grants in Zambia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone toward establishing financial inclusion. The investments have helped 11,018 people, including 2,000 refugees, increase their savings and create greater stability in their lives.

The partnership has created savings groups to support over 124,00 people with the means to save and borrow money, and begin planning for the future.

Establishing savings groups is a fantastic way to help women save money together as a community group. The way they works is really simple – members contribute a fixed amount of money to a shared pot each week and as the pot grows, members can request to take out small loans and pay the money back with a little bit of interest. It means the pot of money grows, allowing members to increase their financial resilience and live a more stable life.

This not only creates a safety net for an emergency, such as a family illness, it also means women can invest in decisions that have the potential to change their lives, such as buying equipment to set up a new business.

One of the organisations supported by the Branching Out programme is the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) Rwanda who are seeing great success with their savings groups.

UNCDF deliver basic financial services and provide financial and digital education to support people forced from their homes and living in refugee camps in Rwanda including Mahama Refugee Camp – the largest refugee camp in the country.

UNCDF introduce refugees to standardised practices for saving groups in humanitarian contexts and support them to use digital saving platforms to improve their financial management activities. Through four implementing partners, they also provide business and entrepreneurship training to refugees.

We spoke to Emmanuel (38), UNCDF Project Manager, whose job is to provide loans and follow up on repayments. He said:

“As refugees have little or no means, some lack the basic skills in creating and managing financial resources. We start by offering them financial literacy training. This training is available to all of our clients in refugee camps and host communities.”

The aim of this programme is to increase access to, and usage of safe, affordable and convenient financial services for those living in camps. By increasing digital and financial literacy, the project aims to increase confidence in using digital financial services.

One person who has benefited from this programme is Faustine (36). Faustine fled the conflict in Burundi in August 2015 and has been living in Mahama Camp since then. She joined Branching Out in 2021, and after being trained on business, saving and investing, Faustine decided to join the bank’s loan scheme to expand her tailoring business. Despite some challenges, including the impacts of Covid-19 on her business, the profits have increased, and she now has three sewing machines. In the workshop she has built with her husband, Faustine said:

“The challenges we often face here in the camp are that women are poor. But when you have something that is generating income there is a difference.”

Since living a more stable life, Faustine has shared her skills and expertise with the wider community, teaching them how to sew.

“The idea of teaching came when I realised that there were many women sitting at home doing nothing. When you see the problems your peers face, you find how you can help. So, I started to teach them sewing and up to now I have taught seven people – among them are women and girls. Those I teach pay Rwf 5,000 per month.”

She’s formed a supportive group with other women in the project and is planning to set up a tailoring school with them. Faustine is hopeful that the time will come when she no longer will be a refugee.

It’s because of savings groups that women like Faustine can transform their lives. The simple act of saving has meant she now owns her own business, employs other women and is now passing on her valuable knowledge. Investing in financial inclusion can have a huge benefit on the wider community. Branching Out is committed to helping more people like Faustine achieve financial security by providing the tools and access to financial inclusion.

We’re proud to share these stories in the run up to Red Nose Day and show how donations and partnerships, like ours with JOA, really do make such a difference to people’s lives.

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