The bank is us

Without access to the banking system, it is almost impossible to take out a loan. A women's group in vietnam succeeds nevertheless: with their own savings club

Borrowing 135 euros is no problem for many people in germany. If the shopping trip is once again larger, current accounts can often be easily overdrawn by amounts such as these. Mrs. Bep, on the other hand, who lives in the central vietnamese city of hue, had to embark on a medium-sized odyssey until recently to get 135 euros – the equivalent of about 3.5 million vietnamese dong.

Ms. Bep has three children and works as a fishmonger; she belongs to the poorer population group in vietnam. People of this stratum often do not have a bank account. As a result, the small sums they save together each month are difficult to invest. And because they usually can't show collateral either, banks usually won't grant them loans.

However, in order to buy fish that she can then resell on the market, ms. Bep occasionally needs a small loan. "Usually relatives lend me money in this situation," says ms. Bep. "Sometimes, however, I have had to go to a loan shark. But the interest rates are high." And this she must first earn again.

Classic microloans are a solution – but by no means for everyone

It was for situations like this that bangladeshi economist muhammad yunus actually developed the concept of microcredit in the 1980s. In 2006, he was even awarded the nobel peace prize for his work. But traditional microcredit is not a viable solution for everyone. For ms. Bep, for example, who only ever needs very small sums in the short term, the effort of applying for a loan from a bank specializing in microcredit would be far too high.

Together with 14 women from her neighborhood, ms. Bep has therefore found another solution: they have joined together to form a non-commercial savings and loan group. Participants must be between 30 and 57 years old, have a family and be in a similar economic situation. Ms. Kieu, for example, is a mother of four children and sells food and drinks at the local market. And 34-year-old ms. NgoAi, who has two children, is a fishmonger like ms. Bep. The idea: the group members help each other out with short-term smaller investments – and save themselves in this way the high interest, which they would otherwise have to pay.

Market in Vietnam

Relaxed job? The fruit and vegetables that the women sell at the market must first be financed

The women were supported by two european foundations, the TUI care foundation and the help with plan foundation. "In this project, we work with people who are too poor to get a normal microloan," explains kathrin hartkopf of the help with plan foundation. Together with local non-governmental organizations, the foundations primarily provide the knowledge of how to organize such a group to avoid potential problems. Everything else is then up to the participants themselves.

The bank vault: a chest with several heavy locks

Mrs. Bep's savings and credit group, called "success," meets once a month at one of the women's homes. Tea and water are then served, fresh fruit is arranged, the children play in front of the front gate. On the floor, the women sit around the metal chest where the group keeps its funds. Secured by several heavy locks. While one of the women keeps the box at home between meetings, other women each have a key. Another woman watches over the cash book, and all of them keep track of their income and expenses in savings books. The goal of all these measures: maximum transparency.

Monthly meetings follow a strict schedule. First, the money in the box is counted in front of everyone and checked against the books. The women have saved ten million dong (390 euros) in the past six months. When no irregularities are found, all women in turn pay 10 each.000 dong into a community fund. The group can dispose of funds from this cash together, for example, for gifts for birthdays or to help if a participant urgently needs to buy medication.


View of the burger bar Room 77, in the so-called Bitcoinkiez in Berlin-Kreuzberg on Graefestrasse. Here you can pay your bill with Bitcoins

A savings club is too analogous for you? Bank-free saving also works with cryptocurrencies – our author has tried it out

Then he saves: those who like can pay surplus money into the chest. This month, about 2.5 million dong come together. The saved sums are entered into the savings books and can also be withdrawn again. Finally, we move on to the next topic: loans. A woman pays back her debts. "Does anyone need a new loan?", asks the chairwoman of the meeting. Ms. Bep comes forward, explaining her loan request of 3.5 million dong and that she wants to buy fish with the money. The round discusses briefly. Like all decisions, this one must be unanimous: if only one participant speaks out against the loan, it is not paid out. But the group gives the green light.

Men are not allowed to join the savings group

Meticulously recording the loan on the books, two women count the money before disbursing it to mrs. Bep. Within three months she wants to pay off the loan again. Interest is also due: 70.000 dong per month. These keys, however, end up in the community treasury, into which the membership fees are also paid – and thus remain with the group.

The "success" group made a conscious decision not to take on men. "It's just a women's group," ms. Bep says succinctly by way of explanation. What remains unspoken: the fact that the women decide among themselves who gets a loan gives them an influential position within the family and especially vis-A-vis their husbands. "The men are happy about it," ms. Kieu affirms. Because within a relatively short time your family has already saved quite a bit.

When the meeting ends, the books are closed, the chest locked, the keys distributed. In one month the next group meeting is coming up. Mrs. Bep hopes for good fish business until then. And everyone wishes each other one thing as a farewell: good luck!