Calabasse de la Solidarité

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On Tuesday, I went to Rugy’s regroupement des femmes: la calabasse de la solidarité, in Diobass. It is a super nice and well thought system way to help each other out and save money based on solidarity.

This is how it works: at the beginning of the meeting –which takes place once a week– as the participants come in, every woman puts her closed hand inside a covered calabasse (pumpkin) so that no one knows whether or not she put in money, and how much. Each participating puts inside according to their possibility of that week. Any late (15-20 mins tolerance) person attending the meeting also has to pay a 100XAF fee (as to encourage them to be on time).

The basic idea is to have a “savings fund” that is to solve concrete issues/emergencies related to one of the 3 areas: kids education, health and food security. So if that week a woman is having a hard time economically, and needs some money to resolve for instance buying medicines for her or someone in her family, or to buy food, or what ever, she can borrow between 5000 and 15000 XAF and has to pay them back in usually 2 weeks. If she is late to pay back, she has to pay an extra fee, only if it is well justified, and someone is in charged of investigating the facts.

As the fund becomes bigger, they divide the funds into the „saving funds for emergencies“ and another part that can be used to develop projects for the community. This second part of the funds can be use to organize events, or lending more money for a woman to start a business, or to start a project for kids, or to help pay/lend money for other issues like funerals, and baptisms or giving birth, amongst others. It appears to work pretty well in most cases.

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The gathering starts and ends with a prayer. It was very nice, because at the start the woman said: “chaque un, prier à vôtre façon”, meaning, each pray in your own way. Acknowledging that all the participants may not share the same beliefs or way to practice their spirituality. It says a lot about their acceptance and tolerance to acknowledge that, and leave space for everyone to feel conformable to pray in their own way. Personally, I find it a beautiful way to start a meeting, taking a few minutes to spread „good vibes, feelings, energy, positive intentions“ name it what you want, each in their own way, but all together. Lovely!

That is something that I have noticed often from the Senegalese population. They are all very spiritual and practice their spirituality on daily basis. Religion, faith and God, is part of every day’s talks. Muslims stop their activities to make their 5 different prayers throughout the day, but you also see Christians taking out their rosaries or taking a few minutes in the morning when they come in to work, to pray.  I find their approach to talk about God and religion –which in many places has triggered the start of wars and persecutions– to be here handled in a very “healthy” way. Accepting the different beliefs, no one trying to say they way is better. Just a common acceptance that we all believe in God in our own way, and that is perfectly acceptable.

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Back to the Calabasse…The Calabasse is organized as followed: there is a “dirigente” in charged of making people come to the meeting, organizing the time and place; the secretary who is in charged of writing what they call PV (process verbal) which is what was talked about during the meeting, and keeps record of who borrows what when; the treasury who keeps the money”, and the comité de discretion who are in charged of deciding whether or not to lend the money to a person that comes to them and wants to keep it a „secret“. As in many places, it is sometimes a delicate situation and people don’t feel comfortable asking for money or having the other know about economical issues, so they created this committee of discretion.

All the decision-making about the calabasse, how to manage it, which path it is taking, what should be done better, etc, is voted by all the participants. Everyone is encouraged to speak up their minds and share their experiences. In this case they apply the “celui qui tait, consait” (the one how keeps silent agrees). All have a say.

That day they talked about needing a leader, a better organization, having people be punctual, to sanction without being afraid to do it just because it is “family” or “friend”, otherwise it will not really work.

The participating women of this calabasse, are all women who work the land. They have tomatoes, bell peppers, bisspa, mais, chilli, gombo, eggplant, choux. Each has her piece of land, and her own cultivation she is responsible for. But they all pay together the gas for the water pumping system, water, and the seeds.

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This meeting took over 4 hours. Because everyone had to tell/say something. An anecdote, a success story, what they liked and did not like about it, areas of improvement, etc. Others said how in other calabasse, they have collected over a million XAF, so they have reserved half as their “safe fund” and the other half to borrow money for projects/ start up business, kindergardens for the community, etc. Which was to encourage them to do the same, to always try to participate and donate something.

At the end of the session, a person is in charged of counting in front of everyone all the money collected that day. And added to what was left/accumulated from the last sessions. So all the participants know the total they have. It is all written down on school notebooks.

We finished with a prayer.

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Eine Antwort to “Calabasse de la Solidarité”

  1. Matthias Görgen Says:

    Dies ist ein gutes Beispiel für „solidarische Entwicklung“ – Das Prinzip der „Calabasse“ sollte Schule machen. Merci für die anschauliche Schilderung!

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