South Sudan: United we progress

In the local Lotuko language Ituba means ‘united we progress’. It is also the name chosen by a group of 30 women in Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan for their one-month old village savings and loan association (VSLA).

The VSLAs are a new initiative for CARE in Eastern Equatoria –but not new to CARE. VSLAs are a CARE innovation that have helped empower women around the world – especially vulnerable women. The savings groups help women make an income and to make their own economic decisions and have more control over their own lives.

After one month of training and guided meetings, the group have reached the all-important ‘first savings day’ that, as CARE Officer Stephen Oduho says, marks the true beginning of the group. Among the funds is a mandatory contribution of 2 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) for an emergency fund to help members in distress, as well as an option for each member to buy as many shares as they can afford.

The ceremony of contributing to and locking the savings box by the three separate key holders is heavy with significance and punctuated by claps and joyful cries of ‘ituba’. By the end of the hour, the women have managed to save an impressive 600 SSP (around US $8, which may seem small, but could buy around 10kg of rice in the market). As Oduho notes; “it is a beautiful concept; the money is constantly circulating – it doesn’t stay in the box for long!”

The VLSA couldn’t have come at a better time for these women, as South Sudan was plunged into hyperinflation in January of this year. Saving, being able to borrow, and setting up alternative businesses in addition to traditional farming practices has never been more important. In an informal economy formerly dependant on bartering and producing its own food, cash has suddenly become the main currency and VSLAs bring women into the new marketplace.


Learn more about CARE’s work in South Sudan.