Plan International Burkina Faso works to remove barriers to girls’ education and improve the economic status of women by supporting women’s savings and loans groups. The groups are popular and have grown rapidly in number. There are currently 4,348 savings groups with 95,419 adults and youth members, including 7,742 girls.
One member of the youth groups is 13 year-old Pascaline Ouedraogo, a 5th grader from Kourittenga Province. She has dreams of becoming a school teacher. Unfortunately, last year, her poor test results meant that she would have to repeat grade 4.
Her father thought that Pascaline would never succeed in school and refused to pay her annual school fees, equivalent to about €4. Instead he wanted her to stay at home, learn to become a housewife and get married. But Pascaline had different plans.
SCHOOL FEES OUT OF SMALL SAVINGS
She had been putting aside half of the money that her mother gave her for snack on school days and investing it in her youth savings and loan group each week. After 9 months, Pascaline had saved €14. After withdrawing her money she paid her school fees so she could continue to learn.
Before, I just spent every cent given to me. Today, I save it for the future
With her remaining funds, she invested in her aunt’s small drinks business. She bought €10 of millet to augment production and increase revenue. Her aunt also paid her €1 a week to help her make and sell the drink in her spare time.
With her extra income, Pascaline was able to invest €17 in her local savings and loan group. At the end of the 9-month saving and lending cycle, she received €40 euros. She used this money to pay school fees, buy school supplies, clothes and shoes, and the occasional sweet. She was still able to set aside €15.
Savings groups have multiple benefits
Plan International Burkina Faso’s village savings and loan programme contributes to several Global Goals, particularly the elimination of poverty (1), quality education (4), and gender equality (5). Our goal is that, by 2030, all girls in Burkina Faso complete their education and that child marriage and adolescent pregnancy are eliminated.
Studies have shown that members of these groups invest more in their own and their children’s health and education. Members receive financial education and life skills training to help keep them healthy, safe and in school. The benefits of membership are far more than financial. The groups strengthen social ties and become support groups and safety nets, and empower girls to speak out and decide what is best for them.
PARENTS INVEST IN BOYS
While the situation is improving, girls in Burkina Faso, like Pascaline, still face daunting challenges to completing their education. €4 is not a small sum in one of the world’s poorest countries, where most people earn less than €600 per year.
Parents often choose to invest scarce resources in boys rather than girls, who are expected to get married and join their husband’s household. Early marriage and adolescent pregnancy are also major reasons why girls drop out of school.
Today, Pascaline is a leader in her community and is admired by her peers. Some have joined her 33-member group while others have created their own groups.
She says, “Before, I just spent every cent given to me. Today, I save it for the future. I will not stay home and wait for marriage. I will study and become a teacher.”