Empowering women – 25 March 2019

From crushing rocks to building her own future

Decontee Zangar used to struggle to provide for her family. A single mother with five children and another child from her extended family, she sold crushed granite to survive. Today, she has a thriving business selling food.

Poverty in Liberia is high, with around 54% of the population living on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank. The country ranks 181 out of 188 countries in the 2018 Human Development Index[1].

“I never used to manage. Just used to spend my money on anything,” Decontee says, reflecting on the time before she joined the SOS Children’s Villages Liberia Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) initiative a year ago. At the time, she and her family lived in a house made of corrugated iron.

Part of the family strengthening programme, a VSLA is comprised of 10-25 people who save together and take small loans from those savings. In the process, they also receive basic business skills training that enable them to upscale their economic activities, improve household welfare, start new businesses and educate their children. During the start-up, the family create individual business plans based on their local market and choice. They are then assisted to set up the business. They are encourage to start with their own little amount to do this rather than with a huge loan. The project currently supports 59 families.

Currently Decontee sells cooked food – mainly ‘dumboy’, a local dish prepared from cassava. “Now with the skills I've acquired, I can manage my income and also make weekly savings,” she says. She adds that, due to her participation in the VSLA programme, her weekly income has increased from LRD 1,200 [USD 7.40] to LRD 3,000 [USD 18.50].

With these increased earnings, she has bought a freezer so she can sell ice blocks to her customers. She added that, based on her weekly savings from her business, she could borrow money from the VSLA to rent an apartment, so she and her children have moved out of the makeshift structure they were living in. Currently, she is building a shop where she intends to sell other goods. Her children also receive educational, medical and psychosocial support from SOS Children’s Villages Liberia.

“I encourage all women to join VSLA groups in their communities because it is one of the best ways to fight poverty. Thanks to SOS Children’s Villages Liberia for involving us in such a developmental group. You showed us the way to success,” says Decontee.

Main photo: Decontee with her family. Photgrapher: SOS Children's Villages Liberia. 

 

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[1] http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/LBR