07 / 1994
The Colombo District Women’s Thrift and Credit Cooperative Society Limited popularly known as the Women’s Bank was set up in Sri Lanka with the aim of developing a women centered savings and credit programme in urban poor families.
The programme was initiated by two NGOs, the Praja Sahayaka Sewaya(PSS)and the Kantha Sahayaka Sewaya(KSS).
The savings and credit programme follows the Grameen Bank Approach of operating in a group system and sets out simple but complete steps for group formation.
First, women in the target group of urban low income families are motivated to witness and learn about the experiences and successes of an existing group or a pioneer group(called the ’older’ group)under the credit scheme. The women are provided an opportunity to seek advice from the ’older’ group on the savings and credit scheme.
Once the introduction programme is carried out, the women are motivated to form a group among themselves. Each group must consist of 5 to 15 women. The older group then provides necessary information and guidance on how to function as a group, the manner and procedure of meetings, method of saving, process of obtaining loans, choosing a leader and group activities. For further assistance the Women’s Bank will provide an extension worker to guide the formation of the group with regard to eligibility and suitability for membership.
The newly formed group is supported by the older group in the initial stages to select a leader, to begin savings and to keep records of such savings.
This support role of the ’older’ group is vital in the early stages of the group.
Once the group is established, it is provided with a cash box and stationary with which savings of members are collected and monitored through details of weekly savings, additional savings and minutes of meetings.
Next, a set of printed rules and regulations is issued to every member setting out membership criteria, terms for savings and loans, repayment conditions, disciplinary aspects and group responsibility. Every member has to understand and know these rules and must pass a test on the rules. This test is given by the leader of the ’older’ group.
When the collective membership of a group passes the test, the group is officially enrolled as a member of the Women’s Bank. The failure of the test even by one member, precludes the group from being enrolled and the member who fails will have to sit the test once more before the group can be admitted as a member of the Women’s Bank.
Enrolment is done by submitting an application form to the Board of Directors of the Women’s Bank for approval and acceptance.
By the time the group is enrolled, it has been in existence for at least five months. For enrolment each member has to pay Rs. 125. This amount is made up of share capital worth Rs.100, an entrance fee of Rs.10 ,a monthly welfare contribution of Rs.10 and a monthly compulsory saving of Rs.5.
While each member joins the Bank as an individual, a group account must also be opened with a minimum deposit of Rs. 250 and an entrance fee of Rs.10.
Once the group joins the Bank in the prescribed manner, it becomes eligible to obtain loans. The loans will be issued into the Group Account and disbursed to the individuals thereon.
The role of the ’older’ group in this system is interesting. The group already is exitence takes on the responsibility of training the newly formed group on using and dealing with credit. This takes away the burden placed on the NGOs implementing the scheme and there is a devolution of power to the grassroots groups.
Articles and files
GAMAGE, Nandasiri, KANTHA SAHAYAKA SEVAYA=WOMENS' ASSISTANCE SERVICE, WOMEN'S ASSISTANCE SERVICE, 1993 (INDIA)
IRED Asie (Development Support Service) - 562/3 Nawala Road - Rajagiriya - Sri Lanka Tel : 94 1 695 481 - Fax : 94 1 - 688 368