For around 4,200 of the women, their training involved courses to help them find ways to earn a living, such as tailoring, catering, soap making, poultry farming or hairdressing.
Having some education and an income allows women to contribute towards paying for their families’ needs, and also gives them respect and a voice within their homes and communities. Almost 9,000 of the women expressed that being able to pay some of the household expenses means that they are now consulted by their partners for important decisions.
‘I have understood over time that the only thing that blocks us is learning,’ Prestance tells us. She had to leave school aged seven when her mother passed away. The uncles who raised her couldn’t afford to pay for her education. ‘In the past, I didn't know how to write or how to calculate and it used to make me worried and embarrassed around other people… I had great difficulty giving change to people when they came to buy my goods.’ She says she struggled to use her phone because she couldn’t read. Now, through the project, all this has changed for Prestance and it’s made running her small business so much easier. She tells us that she’s teaching her children basic maths at home too!
All the women were included in the more than 400 Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) that were set up. VSLAs are groups that teach and practice basic financial skills, including saving together, keeping basic accounts and allowing group members to take loans to use for setting up or supporting small business ventures. Each of the VSLAs received a starting amount of capital from Tearfund.
Stitching a brighter future together
For Noëlla, who is also a mother of two small children, it was this capital that allowed her to build the sewing business she started along with a group of other women. Together, the women took a loan from their VSLA to buy their first sewing machine. Noëlla’s was also one of 16 enterprises selected to receive further equipment and start-up kits – which, in this case, meant providing the women with more sewing machines to use for their business.
‘I am proud of myself and all the others,’ Noëlla tells us. ‘Before, we did nothing [in terms of earning money] but now, every time we sell a garment we’ve made, we are very proud.’
Through this project in CAR, around 8,600 other women like Noëlla have also been able to start new small businesses or to grow their existing initiatives so far.
Impacting whole communities
Life has improved for the women directly involved in the project, and this has had a much wider impact – reaching their families, their wider communities and the women around them who they are able to train and inspire.