I really like her rules for seminars. I saw them when I went to the seminar in Chimoio in March and she had the same ones here. This is my favorite: Anyone who falls asleep will get their face washed. She fines people 10 meticais if they are late to a session and also fines for phones going off during the seminar.
She left time for questions and had a lot of patience with questions. She focused much of her commentary about how savings groups are transforming their churches and women’s lives. She told several stories about groups’ contributions to their churches—the group that bought benches for their church, the conference where more women were in attendance because of the money they had saved. This group rented a car and had enough money to buy capulanas and food for the trip. Those at the conference not a part of this group were so impressed they went home and started their own savings groups. She said others use their savings for books and uniforms for school.
She was disappointed that there were not more women in attendance. She says that women really benefit from the seminars and savings groups. Plus, she said women are more patient with others when they return to their communities and explain things to the groups they form. As she described the roles of the leadership commission, she said that only women can be secretaries and treasurers (where the majority of the power is with the leadership). She talked about how Mozambican culture puts women below men; savings groups empower women. I wonder what the male pastors thought…
Dona Cristina explaining the layout of the secretary's book
She conducted the seminar in Ndau and Raimundo, one of the BIC pastors, translated into Portuguese. I think this is good because 1) most people come from rural areas where their understanding of Portuguese isn’t as strong and 2) it allows for the nuances of culture through language to come through in the explanations. One of the nuances she used was the idea of a “madrinha” (godmother) as a co-signer of a loan. People understand the role of madrinhas as someone who covers for someone else and so it made a lot of sense to them instead of using the word “testimonio” (witness).
It was really good for me to get out and go to the savings group seminar. It felt like an integration of so many worlds for me—BICs, Dona Cristina and Dona Alina from the UCC church, the Mennonites and now Nadia. Now we wait and see who goes home to their communities and begins savings groups. Dona Cristina’s church already has 60 plus groups going. It’s exciting to see the transformation that is happening in people’s lives, churches and communities.