By BOITUMELO NTE
In anticipation of National Women’s Day on Friday 9 August, Grocotts Mail met with Somila (Women’s) Stokvel at the Assumption Development Centre (ADC), to highlight the role stokvels play in improving the lives of township women.
‘Somila’ is a 20-member savings stokvel which started in 2015. The stokvel is part of a network of savings clubs affiliated with the Joza-based ADC, a non-profit organisation tasked with entrepreneurship and business skills education in Makhanda’s township communities. Somila, and the 38 other stokvel groups in the network, lend their existence to ADC’s SaveACT programme, which promotes the formation of savings and loan groups in township communities.
Savings-stokvels have a lengthy history in South Africa, and have been part of many a black community, mainly for their role in supplementing income and softening poverty. Members of a savings stokvel contribute a fixed amount of money to the group’s fund, which is later shared among them following a decided cycle or order of payouts.
Somila operates on a minimum joining fee of R50, and following the SaveAct model has a mini-credit facility that charges 10% interest per amount lent to the group’s members. The interest thus forms the stokvel’s main income-generating capacity. The group also uses other means (such as penalties for being absent from a meeting) to boost its fund.
Constituting mainly older mothers, Somila’s members spoke of the stokvel’s economic and social functions in their lives. Member Pumla Ntsongulana said credit loans from the group have assisted the members to start their own businesses at home, or further personal aims such as building and extending their homes. Ntsongulana also added that members enjoy the relief of using their own money to further their goals, other than the more-onerous options of loan sharks and micro-lenders.
Pumla Nondlwana emphasised the stokvel’s social functions, saying Somila empowers the women and provides a platform for mutual assistance on a range of matters concerning the members. The group’s monthly meetings boost the members’ social capital, affording each an opportunity to enhance their friendships.
The Somila mothers also support each other during burials, although the stokvel does not have a dedicated funeral mandate. They hope, however, to incorporate strands of the burial- and investment-type stokvels in their group in the near future. Nondlwana said their goal would be to invest in property for a group farming project.
Nondlwana and Ntsogulana agreed that Somila’s has survived because of its members’ discipline, and acknowledgement of the importance of working together towards a common goal. While the group has capped its membership at 20, Nondlwana said Somila had been the inspiration of many new stokvel groups that have started in the Joza community. These include young women who have shown interest in Somila’s success.
Maso Nduna, SaveAct Facilitator and ADC’s Director, said SaveAct proposed a cap on stokvel numbers for easier management of the control. The largest of the 39 groups under SaveACT has 24 members.