February 03, 2021   by
An image of two businesswomen holding a meeting

Chama women’s groups are microfinance community support networks, as the members also share community news and advocate on important topics. These groups meet on a specific date and they vary in size depending on the group’s constitutions. The Chama women have made a tremendous comeback as they increase their financial stability through meeting and pooling money they are able to finance their businesses. These community-run-saving groups help allow entrepreneurial women to access informal loans away from bureaucracy. From business stalls to large businesses, these Chama groups have significantly increased the standards of living of most women in Africa.

Investment groups are a never-ending cycle of money contributed by members of a group. These groups often have allied with a mission of saving money for the purpose of investment. In such groups, everyone has the responsibility to contribute. These investment groups are commonly known as Chamas in Kenya, and their popularity extends further to Africa. Most local Chamas have more female members. These Chamas act as a way of harnessing capital.

The Three Types of Chamas

Fixed Amount Contribution

Firstly, there is the fixed amount contribution type of Chama. Here, Chamas are required to make a fixed contribution and they are given to one designated member. Members meet every month, or every week depending on the member’s agreements. The amount contributed is also set as per the member’s preferences. In such contributions, each member decides which member will get all the money and who will take over the next contributions.

This process continues until the last member receives their Chama contribution and the cycle restarts, with the first person to receive the contribution. At this point, the group may retain all its members. The Chama may decide on eliminating dominant members. The contributions received may be used by the Chama members to improve their lives, through opening personal businesses buying household goods or buying assets.

Chamas that Specialize in Shares

Secondly, there are investment groups whereby members contribute amounts that form shares, and this allows the members to ask for loans from the group accounts. Mostly, one member is in charge of keeping the accounts. The loan limit of each member is dependent on the number of shares each member owns in the Chama account. The member meetings still occur frequently, monthly or weekly as well depending on the members’ decisions. The groups require these members to make payments after the grace period ends and often these loans have low-interest rates. The members use the funds they acquire to develop their livelihood. This occurs by expanding their businesses, starting a business, and purchasing assets among other needs.

Investment Groups

Lastly, the third type of Chama is full-time investment groups, and investing is often the main reason the Chama is established. The members of such Investment groups pool money together with the main aim of investing jointly. The type of investment requires research and all members must unanimously agree on where to place their investments. The members may make contributions with the intention of establishing a business, buying property, or purchasing land. For most people in such Chamas, this works as their main source of revenue. The banks often help these Chamas develop, as they have seen the potential of such investment groups. The investment groups grow due to similar investments making this the most famous type of Chama.

The History of Women in Chamas

Tea Plantation Farms Estate In Kiambu County Kenya

Although Chamas has become more popular in the digital era. One can backdate their existence to the olden days. This model is quite ancient as most people used this as a way of self and community development. For instance, back in the day, women often had their Chamas, although they had a different name and they operated differently, they had a similar structure. At the time, women had their contributions in the form of labor rather instead of investments that had monetary value. They would till, plant, and harvest, and the process was a merry-go-round from tiling to harvest season. These Chama investments have rather evolved from operating as ROSCA, to the current more involving group arrangements.

The meetings occurred at the beginning of a season and each member would randomly decide on whose farm they would work on a particular day. Every day they worked together and they would exchange tales and advice on how to improve each other’s source of livelihood. This was a normal routine until the season was over. The farms they were working on were large. Therefore, working together made it easy for them to finish the work on time. The transformation gradually changed and over time the Chama setting changed.

Women Empowerment through Chamas

An image of home Savings

Women run numerous small business enterprises in Africa. Additionally, women are rising up to the challenge and are helping decrease the main problems found in Africa. Some of these issues include unemployment, poverty, diseases, illiteracy among others. These Chamas ensure that it is possible for women to establish these businesses. The Chamas are found both in the countryside and in the urban areas. This is one of the best ways to eradicate poverty. The advantage of becoming a member of this Chama is that they not only support the financial aspect of its members but they also help develop their social aspects as well.

The group members. Another reason why women join Chamas is that they are useful when they try to educate their children and cater to their basic needs, and social lives. It is also useful in contribution payments in times of weddings and funerals. These group members share their struggles and success and lift each other’s businesses and general lives. For those that form a kitty on lending, the interest rates are also affordable.
One can join as many Chamas as possible and this helps in ensuring one may advance their lives without depending on their salary.

Microfinance Industry and Chama Collaboration

Several households in Africa have members who belong to such Chamas and they help develop these homes in numerous ways. The conjoined efforts of these Chamas help members to finally access financial aid from microfinance. During investment, especially in relation to investment group loans, the members of such Chama’s help empower women, to develop socially and economically as these funds help them venture into different businesses which better their daily lives.

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