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Improving lives through microfinance in Sierra Leone

Before the introduction of the Village Savings and Loans Scheme, communities found it difficult to raise enough money to meet their livelihood needs. This exposed them to “Money Lenders” who gave out loans at exorbitant interest rates thus making their clients even poorer. In some cases, people who defaulted in paying their loans ended up with no other choice but to flee their communities. Today, the EC-Funded Food Poverty Reduction Initiative Project implemented by Plan International Sierra Leone aims at improving economic security in the area, especially for women. Kadiatu was one of the beneficiaries of this project.

Getting started with microfinance

Kadiatu is 43 years-old woman and mother of 5 children. Her husband is a farmer in the village, and the financial situation used to be very difficult for her and her family. She was barely able to pay for her children’s school fees and daily meals. Until one day she was introduced to Plan International's project being implemented in her community.

“One day, my friend invited me to a community sensitisation meeting organised by one of Plan International Sierra Leone’s implementing partner, Community Empowerment and Development Agency for the Formation of Village Savings & Loan Groups. After listening to the facilitators, I decided to join one of the groups. We are twenty-five in the group”, Kadiatu says.

Kadiatu is very active in her group, and is the “money counter“, one of the most important positions in the Management Committee of the group.

“I do petty trading in market square every day and from my little savings, I took Le 25,000 ($5) which I used to buy my weekly shares and contribute to the social fund. I later took my first loan of Le 50,000 to be added to my petty trading and was able to pay my children’s school fees. At the end of the first cycle, I received the sum of Le 417,300 ($ 84) and got a profit of Le 157,000 ($32) which I used to pay for my children’s school fees and to buy more goods to be added to my usual petty trading", Kadiatu recalls. 

I can’t imagine how I would have survived the terrible times of the Ebola Quarantine restrictions without access to loans from my group and friends.

“I can’t imagine how I would have survived the terrible times of the Ebola Quarantine restrictions without access to loans from my group and friends. I was able to feed my family mainly from the proceeds of my petty trading financed by funds accessed from this project. I am very thankful to Plan International and their partner, CEDA, for helping us.” Kadiatu added.

From economic to social empowerment

Kadiatu changed a lot since she first joined the project. She has many more firends in her village and feels empowered not only economically, but socially as well. "Before being involved in the Village Savings and Loans Group, I was shy and could not even express myself in public, but now, I have learnt how to be bold and can help to train and form new groups. It has given me a lot respect from my community".

The project has also given Kadiatu the opportunity to attend many workshops and further learn usefull skills. "Recently, I took part in the market research and value chain and Income Generation Activities training", she says proudly. 

 

For more information about Plan International's work in Sierra Leone go to plan-international.org/sierra-leone.

For more information about the work of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Directorate-General, please click here.