How economic empowerment is helping one Zambian woman support her family

March 6, 2023
Cynthia Moonga at her shop selling vegetables and groceries in Zambia’s Central province. Credit: Pact.

Cynthia Moonga was in eighth grade and only 15 years old when she had her first baby. The father did not provide any support and she had to drop out of school to care for herself and her child. A few years later, she married a local bricklayer and had her second child. By 2018, life was getting harder for Cynthia. She now had five school-aged children—three boys and two girls. They all needed educational support, and the money her husband made as a bricklayer was not enough. Most of their children had stopped going to school because they couldn’t afford it.

Often, women are more affected by these challenging family situations. Although Cynthia spent her time caring for the family of seven, her husband threatened to leave if she could not also contribute money for food and the children’s education. 

Her friends had noticed that her children weren’t going to school. When she shared her struggles with them, they introduced her to Pact’s WORTH program

A community banking and empowerment program, WORTH brings together groups of 20-25 people, mostly women, to establish small community banks for regular savings and lending. Participants also learn literacy, numeracy and business-oriented skills. Pooled savings are made available to members through short-term, low-interest loans often used for income-generating activities.

Cynthia joined a WORTH group that Pact had brought together through a project to tackle child labor in artisanal and small-scale mining supported by The London Metal Exchange. Based on studies in Zambia’s Central and Copperbelt provinces to understand the scope of the issue, it was clear that building the economic security of families, particularly women, could reduce child labor in the region. When they are out of school and struggling with poverty, children like Cynthia’s are more likely to turn to child labor to help their families. The women in Cynthia’s group were all involved in mining dolomite, a common livelihood option in the area.

In 2022, Cynthia qualified to start borrowing and saving with the group. With the support of her group, she was able to buy food and help her children return to school. In December 2022, her group completed their banking cycle, sharing the dividends with members. Cynthia received $180 in local currency. 

“Since the time I showed my husband the money I got from the WORTH program, he started giving me respect and he always consults me whenever he is paid. We make decisions together on how to spend the money.” 

By joining these groups, members not only accumulate assets, diversify their income sources and access much-needed finance, but they also strengthen their social and economic networks and contribute to household decision-making and community development.

For Cynthia, being part of Pact’s WORTH program has made a huge difference for her and her family.

Today, Cynthia has put her new business skills into practice and is running a vegetable and grocery shop that supports her family. Her husband periodically funds the business and provides supplementary capital whenever sales are down to keep the business afloat.

“I thank you Pact for the WORTH programs.”