Samaritan’s Purse teaches women in Niger how to make an income and save money so that they can provide for their families
On a sunny afternoon in Ayorou, Niger, over 30 women dressed in colorful fabric welcomed Samaritan’s Purse into their community with traditional songs of respect and appreciation. They were overjoyed to see those who were responsible for teaching them how to manage and save their money.
They called themselves “Mata Masu Dubara,” which means, “women making a way for themselves”.
For the last two years, Samaritan’s Purse has been leading about 90 women’s micro-finance groups in Ayorou and the surrounding areas to help get families out of poverty.
Most households struggle to get by through meager livelihoods such as farming or herding in this arid country stricken by hunger and famine. To compound the problem, many men leave their homes for months or years at a time looking for work in larger cities. The women are left with the responsibility of taking care of large families and providing food for them each day with little to no resources.
To help these women gain a source of income on their own, Samaritan’s Purse initiated the women’s micro-finance groups.
Our staff teaches the women simple local trades such as gardening, peanut oil processing, soap and local cosmetic making, and animal fattening. With these skills, women are then able to begin generating an income.
Many in the program also have experience in making and selling traditional goods like spices, but rarely gain any income from their sales. Samaritan’s Purse teaches the women how they can make a profit from selling their products. They then are encouraged to set aside a small portion of their earnings each week in the group’s savings box.
Saving is generally a new idea to most women in Niger because they are used to spending their money as soon as they get it. Hawa, a Samaritan’s Purse educator, says that she must be patient with them until they have realized the benefits of saving for themselves.
The groups decide how much money each woman will contribute to the savings box each week. Some groups start by bringing in as little as $.05 each week, while others require members to put in $.20.
A Samaritan’s Purse educator like Hawa leads the weekly meetings to regulate the money. In addition, a group president is selected and charged with the responsibility of monitoring the savings box.
As the savings accumulate, the women decide together if they want to invest in another income-generating project. Several of Hawa’s groups have purchased baby goats, fattened them, and sold them for a profit. Others have bought a sack of rice when it was cheap and sold it for a profit when prices went up.
Karimatou, president of a micro-finance group in the village of Doulsou, wore a huge smile on her face as she proudly expressed her group’s success. Over a period of a year and a half, they saved over $1,800. Karimatou’s group was one of 12 that graduated in 2012 and is now operating independently without the help of Samaritan’s Purse.
Karimatou’s group has been autonomous for almost six months and is thriving on its own. She happily expressed her appreciation to Hawa and Samaritan’s Purse, and when asked what the group’s future plans were, she replied without hesitation, “Continue to save more money!”
Karimatou explained that the money earned was divided evenly among each group member, who were then free to spend the money as they pleased. Karimatou was proud to say that most women in her group invested their money into more incoming-generating activities for the future.
As our staff has walked these women through the learning process, they have done their best to show them the love of Jesus Christ and to be a living witness of His power.
Niger is a Muslim country, deeply rooted in both Islamic and traditional beliefs. Despite the country’s strong hold in its religion, the women involved in these groups are slowly being exposed to the truth of God. Through the Samaritan’s Purse staff members genuine interest in these women’s lives, they are regularly experiencing the love of Jesus.
We also have a local evangelist who regularly visits those who are involved in our activities and shares the Gospel with them, and a pastor and ministry staff members who offer a Bible study when we hold training sessions.
Through gradually hearing Bible stories and experiencing the love of Jesus from our staff, the women in these groups are slowly becoming more open to the Gospel.