Just a Handful of Naira: Village Savings and Loans Associations in Nigeria

{ Photo credit: Gwenn Dubourthournieu} Photo credit: Gwenn Dubourthournieu

Narba Shenom, a 42-year-old living with HIV in Sabon Garin, Kaura Namoda, Zamfara state, could not disclose her HIV status to her husband, a peasant farmer, or to any of her husband’s other three wives, due to the fear of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV in the community. Narba’s situation was challenging because, like many women from the area, she did not work and depended solely on her husband to provide for her and their children.

Though Narba secretly admired other children around her neighborhood who attended school, none of her four children were in school because her husband could not afford it. With the limited income his farm was making for their large family, providing Narba with money for transportation to the health facility was out of the question. Narba began missing her clinic appointments and support group meetings. She was a patient with poor adherence and was at risk of becoming lost to follow-up. As though that was not bad enough, she later discovered that her husband knew he was HIV positive a long time ago but had hid his status and his treatment from her and his other wives.

Narba’s case dramatically turned around for the better, when, through the assistance of her support group, she was enrolled into a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) supported by the USAID-funded Care and Treatment for Sustained Support (CaTSS) project, implemented by Management Sciences for Health (MSH). The VSLA enables people living with HIV to generate their own income. A local chapter of the VSLA was created in the General Hospital, Kaura Namoda, Zamfara state, where Narba receives care.

Since joining the VSLA, Narba began saving 200 Naira per week (64 cents). In a span of three months, she qualified for a loan of 3,000 Naira ($9.50), which she used to start a small business of fried yam, bean cake and pap (a local corn-based porridge) right in front of her house, using cooking utensils she already had. With the profit she made from her business, Narba was able to repay her loan in full within three months.

Today, two of Narba’s four children have been enrolled into primary school, she keeps her clinic appointments, and she does not miss her support group meetings. Narba’s self-esteem has improved tremendously, giving her the courage to disclose her HIV status to her husband and to his other three wives. She encouraged her co-wives to get tested for HIV and one tested positive.

“I am no longer dependent on anybody for financial support to attend clinic appointments, go to the clinic for drug refills, and attend support group meetings. I even support other HIV positive women with money to keep their clinic appointments. My health has greatly improved and my family is better off. Thanks to MSH and the American people for bringing this savings and loan group to my community,” said Narba.

Narba was recently profiled as a stable client who will benefit from the ART differentiated care model to be piloted in Zamfara state. With the adoption of this model, the frequency of her visits to the health facility for drug refills will be reduced. She will be trained to work with the community’s health care center to collect drugs every six months for her own use, as well as for other stable clients within her community. Narba is one of the several economically empowered support group/VSLA members, and she is a positive role model to her community members.

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