The Women’s Responsive Sou Sou Banking System
The Women’s Responsive Sou Sou Banking System or WRSSB is based on the African traditional system we know as Sou Sou. The WRS Bank was formally established in November 2004 during Chief (Mrs.) Bisi Ogunleye’s (OFR) visit to Trinidad & Tobago. It assist women especially low income women who do not have access to commercial bank accounts, to save in their own environments. The objectives are as follows:
- To work with rural and urban low-income women to remove poverty from their lives through wealth creating practices and enterprises
- To mobilize, generate and deliver cooperative community and personal resources for productive and life enhancing ventures
- To promote gender-compliant and women friends democratic practices and leadership at all levels of governance
Micro finance has proved to be a veritable channel of poverty reduction in many poor countries particularly in Asia and Africa. The trend in the 1980s and 90s proved the assertion above. New developments in the millennium are also confirming the role of Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) as businesses with a double bottom-line i.e. profitability and impact. The success of Micro finance has been due largely to the innovation of the practitioners through tested models and demand driven products and services.
We have seen models of Micro finance from Asia replicated around the world. Some of these models have been very successful but many of them do not fit the cultural setting associated with Trinidad & Tobago - they make initial impact and gradually fade out. Trinidad & Tobago has a long history of Micro finance, practiced in as many ways as the cultural diversity of the people. Among these traditional methods are Esusu, Adache etc. These traditional methods have been very successful. However, lack of documentation has veiled many practices in Africa and little reference is made to them.
It is on account of this identified gap that CDF decided to document an African Microfinance Model (African Traditional Responsive Banking (ATRB), which has been very successful with national coverage in Nigeria, serving over 250,000 mainly women members.
The ATRB owes its development largely to the visionary leadership and passion for poverty eradication of its founder, chief (Mrs.) Bisi Ogunleye (OFR) under the auspices of the Country Women’s Association of Nigeria (Cowan), founded and lead by her since 1982. Emerging from the Esusu as well as from 20 years of social networking and micro financing by the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women, the Women’s Responsive Sou Sou Bank adopted and adapted the African ATRB model.
Passport To A Better FutureThe WRS Bank has already begun to provide a valuable service - currently harnessing and sharing information about our culture in order to ensure a passport to a better future. The WRS Bank's integrated approach distinguishes it from other micro credit efforts.
Social support services are as important as money in any bid to eradicate poverty. As in the case of the economic literacy programme social support services will be the ones to lead to economic improvement for women and girls.
If the poor are to share in economic growth then access
- To market information
- Technical knowledge must be made available.
If the poor are to shore up their incomes and assets as well as build a livelihood in a sustainable way, they need access to:
- Market information and commercial linkages
- Technology and methods to improve productivity.
- Equipment and supply knowledge, linkages & bargaining power
- Health and social security services
- Management knowledge for individual & collective enterprises
- Representation at decision making bodies
The OutcomeWhile the main objective of the WRS Bank is economic the social returns are probably bigger than the economic returns and include
- Liberating women economically and socially from men's dominance
- Proving that the poor are able to improve their quality of life.
- Economic literacy with the consequent impact on the living standards of the savers
- Easier access to diverse information
- Easier management of activities