Breaking the poverty cycle in Mali, one woman at a time
The Segou region of Mali is a difficult place to live. Life there is defined by the Sahel, the harsh eco-climate that borders the Sahara. Poverty and its symptoms - malnutrition, poor health care, lack of education - weigh many Sahelian communities down. The village of Sougoula, like many, has little economic opportunity for residents and even less for women.
Inspired by her desire to make the lives of her two children better, Mariam Oulalé (Mayamu), decided she had to do something. With the support of Plan, she began to initiate change to break the cycle of poverty and empower women in her community.
Promoting women’s solidarity
Under the guidance of Plan, Mayamu began to engage the women of her community to work as a united group. Under her leadership, the village women formed an association and solicited a savings and credit program.
Working with local organization Advice and Support for Basic Education (CAEB) and Plan, the women were trained in group facilitation and credit management. To raise the needed capital of 240,000 CFA (Central African Franc) in one year’s time, each woman contributes a weekly sum of 200 CFA. The savings and loan association is then able to allocate funds to each of the women to undertake trade and business activities. Loans are repaid with interest to facilitate further lending and increase overall economic security and stability.
The cash loans enable the women to change their lives and support their families. Mayamu used her loan to start a business and purchase some sheep, goats and chickens. The livestock provides food for her family and income through the sale of offspring; her original pair of chickens has grown into a flock, and recent sales of hens netted Mayamu 11,300 CFA – more than 4 times the chickens’ original cost.
Mayamu has also developed a trade in incense, spices and cosmetics. “My trade in incense is the most flourishing in the region and I have also been able to sell the offspring of my animals,” said Mayamu. “With my profits, I am now able to send my children to school.”
Change ripples through the community
The Plan savings and loan women’s association provides much more to the community than economic stimulus. The women are a focal point, raising awareness and training the community in how to prevent disease and improve health.
The women receive training from Plan staff in simple interventions to reduce the impact of malaria and to improve nutrition. They then teach others this valuable information throughout the village and surrounding farms. Through their outreach, they have distributed 1,000 bed nets to families with children donated by Plan to prevent malaria.
Mayamu’s 12 year old daughter, Kafounè, is proud of her mother’s leadership and impact on the community. She works hard at her studies so she can become a leader in her community; her mother’s profits have paid her annual school and supplies fees. Mayamu is also able to give her daughter a small allowance and share the financial lessons she has learned. “Instead of spending my whole allowance, I save some each week,” said Kafounè.
Mayamu’s determination, assisted by Plan, is not only changing the lives of women in Sougoula today, but also the women of the future.
Learn more about Plan's work in Mali.