Finda gains hope in Sierra Leone
contributed by Tamara Moore, World Vision
When Finda Marie, 38, was a young girl, she enjoyed learning math and English at school in Sierra Leone. But eventually her parents could no longer afford her school fees, and encouraged her to drop out of school and get married. Finda did so, leaving behind her friends, her teachers, and her dreams of a better future.
Life is challenging in Sierra Leone for many who live in rural villages and communities. Accessing appropriate medical care, financial support, food, and water is a daily struggle. Finda lives in rural Gbane Kandor chiefdom with her husband and three youngest children. Her four older children are living with neighbors in a distant town because she and her husband could not provide for their needs with her vegetable garden and his teaching salary.
In 2010, a World Vision Sierra Leone field agent working with the Promoting Agriculture, Governance, and the Environment (PAGE) project gathered women in Finda’s community and introduced group savings to them. PAGE is a four-year, $13.2 million USAID-funded project that builds on previous projects in the agriculture, democracy and governance, and natural resource management sectors.
The idea the field agent explained involved each member regularly contributing a small amount to a shared savings fund. As the weeks and months go by, members can access loans from the fund with a reasonable interest rate instead of going to moneylenders who charge high rates. The field agent encouraged the women that if they work hard and abide by the rules and bylaws they created together, they would be able to achieve their goals, such as paying school fees for their children, starting their own businesses, and hiring additional labor for their farms.
Finda was hesitant at first, but joined the Women in Development group, contributing weekly to the savings fund. She found comfort and safety in the fact that the women collectively made decisions of how the group would be run and what the penalty would be if someone did not abide by what was agreed upon. Within a matter of months, the women could see Women in Development helping their families in times of need.
Finda took out a loan to pay school fees for her four older children and to buy palm oil to sell for additional income for her family. She knows that even long after the PAGE project comes to an end, Women in Development will exist because they have the knowledge and tools to continue governing this group.
“Without this group, I would suffer; my family would suffer,” Finda says as she reflects on the past, and looks toward the future. She knows that one day because of the money she is saving with her group, her family will be reunited, all her children will receive a full education, her business will expand, and her husband and she can build a home that will house them all.
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