Bringing Savings to Sierra Leone: Danica's Story
Danica is a bright 13-year-old with six brothers and sisters who lives in the far-flung community of Songo in Sierra Leone. Danica was just a baby when the brutal civil war that devastated her country came to a close, and she has grown up in its wake.
War is destructive on multiple levels. Even once the initial wreckage has been cleared, there still remains pervasive damage to society and infrastructure. During the war, Sierra Leone’s currency hit record rates of inflation. Saving money became not only irrelevant, but actually irresponsible. The savings culture was completely destroyed, as well as any ability to invest in the future.
However, the currency is stabilizing with the political situation, and Danica now represents a new generation of Sierra Leonean youth. She joined Plan’s Girl Power program one year ago, and she is now the leader of the Girls’ Savings and Loan Association in her community. “My mom and grandma can’t save money,” she confesses. “But I can go to them and show them how.”
Now mothers are getting involved and learning savings methods along with their children. While the girls are running the savings groups and learning vital financial skills, the mothers are behind the scenes providing the 500 Leone, or 12 cents, for the girls to save every week. When school fees or medical care is needed for one of the girls, the parents borrow it from the girls’ savings box.
Danica says, “When I was not in this savings group I was ashamed to even talk to people. I was not able to understand how to not be shy. But now I am able to talk to many people.” And talk she does! With confidence, she addresses her peers during assemblies to talk about not only savings methods, but also issues of early pregnancy and marriage that are so common in her community.
“When I was small,” she says, “I didn’t have this knowledge and I would say I want to be a cook when I grow up.”
So what does she want to be now?
A big smile flashes across her face. “Now I want to be president!”