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Making poor people's (housing): dreams come true.

Most people have dreams of what they could do if they had enough money. However, obtaining a loan from a bank is very difficult if you are poor. Banks only give loans to people if they have proof that the lenders can repay the loan. Banks typically require that a lender provides collateral as guarantee against the loan. Collateral refers to an asset (a house, land or a fixed income) of a person that the bank can take from the lender, should she or he be unable to repay the loan. Because women are generally poorer than men, it is extremely difficult for a woman, especially if she is single, to get a loan through a bank.

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All people, regardless of their background or where they live, need a place they can call home. However, with house prices in Namibia soaring, having a real house remains an unattainable dream for most Namibians.

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But all is not lost! The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia Housing Action Group (SDFN), established in 1998, has formed networks of saving schemes for people in towns who are living in shacks (kambashu), rented rooms or lean-tos, and also for those without accommodation. The purpose is to build simple houses for them and to improve their living conditions.

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RELATED ARTICLE: Pooling their savings together

The idea is a simple one and is based on principles of solidarity and altruism; people who normally would not be able to access loans from financial institutions like banks, pool their savings together and help each other by participating in saving schemes. People who belong to these schemes typically are those with low-income occupations such as domestic workers, cleaners, security officers and the unemployed. Through saving schemes people save what they can, whether it is 10 cent or N$l per day. By saving with others, the collective savings of all group members makes a real impact on the capacity of the saving in the end.

According to Hendrina Shuunyuni and Viviane Kandundu of the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG), Namibia boasts 603 saving groups currently with a membership of 18 856 members in all the regions of Namibia. The majority are women, totalling 12 403! This provides women with access to credit to, for instance, build houses or start a small business. The benefits for especially poor single mothers are self evident, because they now can take care of their children and send them to school without being dependent on others. So far, 1,057 income-generation loans were granted to members. During the 12-month period which ended in June 2011, a whopping N$ 9 802 604.29 was saved through saving schemes.

In addition to the saving schemes, SDFN assists people to enter negotiations with, for instance, the Windhoek municipality to buy unserviced blocks of land (as opposed to single plots) at a reduced price. Group members themselves are then responsible for the development of the land by digging trenches and bringing services to the blocks. SDFN members themselves then also help each other to build their 34sq metre houses (one room with kitchen and toilet), each costing between N$20 000 and N$ 25 000. Group members in a particular area would then start to build one house and when that is completed, move to the next house until all group members have their houses.

RELATEDA ARTICLE: Over two thousand houses built

The Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) supports SDFN members by providing them with technical assistance and advice. Members then have the option to continue saving with the objective to extend or improve their houses. So far over two thousand five hundred houses were built in this manner throughout all the regions of Namibia.

An activity of the SDFN is the Twahangana fund. Also known as "the poor people's fund", Twahangana channels government subsidies, resources from the municipality, donors' contributions and interests gained through members' savings to SDFN funds. Another service of SDFN consists of exchanges between communities both in Namibia and internationally, which serves as a platform for mutual learning and sharing.

Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia/ Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) Tel: (061) 239398 | Fax: (061) 239397

Email: nhag@iway.na

Address: P. O. Box 21010, Windhoek, Namibia
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Title Annotation:WOMEN'S ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Author:Sasman, Laura
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Sep 1, 2011
Words:707
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