Stories from the Kaze Mwendo savings group in the Nduta Refugee Camp
When visiting a group of refugees in the Nduta camp, I tend to experience some mixed feeling of embarrassment, curiosity and hesitation at the beginning. A thin soap-bubble barrier through which someone has to poke a finger. With a timid smile, I say: "MWAKEYE!" (Good morning in Kirundi) and I look around, trying to read in my interlocutors' eyes if I have said it right. "MWAKEYE!", they respond, laughing and looking at each other with complicity. I feel that now we are together.
The 18 members of Kaze Mwendo savings group are all from Burundi with 3 out of 8 women under 24 years old. They are about to complete their first saving cycle and share-out. They have all received loans, and most of them are able to maintain or open a small business with no problem repaying the loans thus far.
Paul, who is 27 years old, borrowed from the group to buy a solar panel. He is the champion of Kwiyubaka, an interactive tablet-based app that teaches financial and digital literacy in Kirundi. The app has been installed on tablets that are being distributed among the groups. Under UNCDF and GNTZ’s supervision, this group has introduced an internal rotation system for the tablet to enable more people to see and use it. However, nobody is as enthusiastic as Paul when it comes to describing how the app works and providing feedback.
Aysha is 38 years old and she is the Secretary of the group. During our entire visit to the group, she never dropped the registry on the mat. She doesn't have a Vodacom line; thus, to use Arifu (USSD-based learning tool that works with the Vodacom line), she has to go to a friend's house to look at the small screen together. She wishes that Arifu was more like Kwiyubaka, which provides videos, images and sound, for that not many can read and write in the camp.
Aysenge, 33 years old, plays at placing one of the plastic bowls (part of the savings group's toolkit) on her child's head. Her hand stops in mid-air as she tells us her thoughts about the project. She agrees with Aysha, but reminds us that mobile phone usage is difficult in the refugee camps. This is due to the fact that mobile networks are requiring everyone to register their sim-cards again and refugees are left out because sim-card registration without Tanzanian identification is not allowed. From the beginning of next year, nobody will have a Vodacom sim card. They won't be able to learn on Arifu anymore.
"We can't do anything, we can't even leave the camp. If you can't ask for permits to exit the camps, can you please advocate for us so that we can register sim-cards and possibly use mobile money?", asks Paul. This question resounds in the group like in a choir. "We'll try to try", as I heard our UNHCR colleague respond. He knows the situation in the camps very well.
Afterwards, Salvatore, 37-year-old zone leader and member of the savings group, speaks up: "There's a sunny season and there's a rainy season. Could you give us something to protect us from the rain when we meet-up as a group? A plastic sheet for example". This we can do, easily. We walk back to the car wishing we could say yes more often, giving them more reassuring responses, similar to how they respond to our questions about the impact of this programme on their lives.
Programme Coordinator, Financial Inclusion, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)
UNCDF in Tanzania
In Tanzania, UNCDF's Financial Inclusion Practice Area (FIPA) team works to advance access to finance, strengthen savings, and improve financial capability in the Kigoma Region. Our target groups are small farmers, refugees and surrounding host communities, and our focus is women and youth.