Independent Woman: Theresa’s personal story of economic empowerment
Theresa is a single mother of 2 living in Sierra Leone. Previously, her only opportunity for employment was doing neighbours’ chores, and she struggled to make ends meet for her family.
“Things were so difficult for me and I didn’t have a plan,” she explains – that is, until Plan launched the Youth Microfinance Project in her community.
Through the program, Theresa was able to gain valuable skills and join a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA); a community-led group where members pool their savings and provide designated members with small, short-term, minimal interest loans.
Here, Theresa shares her story – in her own words – of how Plan and the support of her VSLA group enabled her to start her own business, build confidence and begin a new life for herself and her children.
After they explained the benefits of the project to me, I became interested and attended the first meeting, and was fortunate to join a group. I met other girls in my vicinity that I did not know before and together, we developed unity and solidarity.
Our group members received various trainings. I learned to save, organize my finances better and make my money work for me.
I took a loan of 300,000 Leones [CAD$85]. It was the first time I had held that kind of money. I used it to buy a bag of rice, 5 gallons of palm oil and other cooking equipment and I started to sell rice meals by the street.
With more profit coming in, I made monthly contributions to my group’s saving plan. At the first share-out, I received 636,000 Leones [CAD$180]. There were tears of joy in my eyes.
I was able to buy another shop up the street that sells household goods and am now able to save more. I have a passion for cooking and would eventually like to open a restaurant.
Gaining more than a profit
At a point in my life, I virtually begged for food. My children were starving and I could not do anything because I had no plan and nobody to help me out. Since joining the project, the quality of my life has improved.
Now I have my own food stand and my own money. I have enough to take care of myself and my 2 children, both of whom are now attending school. I make sure that my family eats a balanced diet because I know it is important for the growth of my boys.
I had lost hope and self-esteem, but this project brought them back. Now I have no need to work for neighbours. I no longer need to rely on others. I am now respected in my community – people even come to borrow money from me.
The changes that happened to me are visible. I can walk with my head high in my community. The project made me an independent, self-reliant woman.
Though Theresa is thrilled with the success of her shops, like her food stall, she’s already set her sights on her next goal: opening her own restaurant.
An invaluable return on investment
Over a 4-year period (from 2010 to 2014), the Youth Microfinance Project engaged 89,000 youth living in poverty in Senegal, Sierra Leone and Niger – 85% of whom were female – providing them with training and resources to help them achieve economic security.
You can help even more women like Theresa break the cycle of poverty and become financially independent and empowered.
When you purchase the mom shop through Plan Canada’s Gift of Hope , you provide women in some of the poorest communities of the world with skills training and access to Village Savings and Loans programs.
By accessing these vital resources women can pursue small business opportunities and the chance to generate income – empowering them to improve their own lives, as well as their families’.
Invest in a mom today and she’ll create a better tomorrow.
Read more stories about empowering women through microfinance programs: