And so she sews

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Margaret walks home from her self-help group meeting.

Margaret lives in a farm community in rural Kenya outside of Machakos. She makes women’s clothing for a living while her husband farms and her children attend school. When she’s not sewing or tending to her chickens, Margaret acts as the treasurer of her local self-help group. This group, comprised of her village neighbors, offers an environment of financial support to its members. The members pull their resources together in a savings account which they use as collateral when needed.

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Margaret and other self-help group members count money brought by all to make their monthly loan payments.

During a recent meeting, the group was given the opportunity to finance water or sanitation solutions for each participating family. Such a solution has never been offered as something customers could finance but is desperately needed by the members and their families. Like Margaret’s family.

Margaret didn’t always have time to sew beautiful dresses to sell. There was a time when many hours of her days were consumed by water collection. From her home to a local pond, and back again, Margaret made multiple trips of two kilometers each to collect water for her family’s bathing, cooking, and cleaning needs. When Margaret learned from her self-help group bank representative that she could now finance a water connection or rain storage tank, she expressed interest to her peers. Together the group decided they could put forth some of their savings as collateral on a loan that would provide enough water storage tanks for all its members. Water.org’s partner bank in Kenya, Equity Bank, lent the group enough for each member to purchase at least one, if not two tanks.

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A rain storage tank like Margaret's.
With these dresses, I earn income too. Not just my husband. We can afford the payments.

Margaret enthusiastically shared her excitement about having access to water just steps from her home now. For a loan of 50,000 Kenyan Shillings (about $500), Margaret has two rain storage tanks with gutters on her home that can carry water down to the tanks. Each tank holds at least 10,000 liters of water. This is enough for her family to use during and between each rainy season. With water at home now, Margaret can spend her time sewing.

As she sewed a satin, pink dress for a new client Margaret explained that her loan term is for three years but she expects to pay it off early, “With these dresses, I earn income too. Not just my husband. We can afford the payments.”

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Margaret smiles from the front porch of her home in Kenya.

It is for families like Margaret’s that Water.org created WaterCredit to provide small, affordable loans for water and sanitation. For millions around the world, access to funds stands between them and safe water and sanitation in their home. Our solutions break down the financial barriers between these people and access to safe water and sanitation—and our approach is working. Go here to learn more about why financing worked for Margaret and why it’s working for more than 27 million people.

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Margaret pauses to sip water she got from her new tank.