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TOPIC: BUSINESS and FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE |INTRODUCTION by EMILY BREW

 

When thinking about development, there are three sorts of capital necessary to alleviate a girl of poverty: social, human, and financial. Dorothée’s story illustrates the latter, as she was able to take a little bit of financial capital missing from a solidarity group called Ishaka and receive support, knowledge, and network from the other girls participating. By each putting twenty cents a week into a blue metal box with three locks, the girls are able to withdraw a loan to start businesses. They can also withdraw if they encounter emergencies (sick families, for instance). This system relies on trust, and Dorothée was able to gain independence and self-sufficiency; she is also able to invest in her aunt’s business and act as a venture capitalist getting a return. When she was asked what do the boys think of her making her own money, she answered: “They show me a 5,000 francs note, and I show them a 10,000 francs note. They can’t take advantage of me!”

 

Dorothée, twenty-one…

 

comes from a very poor family. Her father was frequently sick and could not work to support her family. Her mother sold goods in the market, but with eleven children she could not make ends meet. She joined an Ishaka solidarity group in 2008 and subsequently changed the direction of her life.

 

Each week, Dorothée and fifteen other girls…

 

come together and contribute 250 Burundi francs. Dorothée took her first loan of 5,000 francs and bought brillo pads to sell in the market. After gaining a profit of 3,000 francs, she added dish soap to her market base. She saved small amounts of money each week until she had enough to buy six plates. But she did not sell those plates – instead she kept them aside until she had eighteen plates to sell – a proper business.

 

Her business continued to grow…

 

and today she has a shop with everything from plates to gift wrap. Her mother contributes to her business by sharing with her, renting a space in the market for her, and Dorothée pays the 6,000 francs in taxes each month. Since the first loan, Dorothée has taken one additional loan of 5,000 francs.

 

Dorothée saved 15,000 francs…

 

to send to her aunt in a village outside of Bujumbura to help her start a local business. As a result, Dorothée receives 6,000 francs from her aunt on a monthly basis, adding to her monthly income.

 

“IT MAKES ME HAPPY THAT I CAN HELP MY AUNT AND ALSO SUPPORT MYSELF THROUGH INVESTING IN HER. SHE WAS VERY POOR AND DID NOT HAVE ANY SUPPORT AND NOW SHE CAN SUPPORT HERSELF; THIS MAKES ME VERY HAPPY,” SAYS DOROTHÉE.

 

Dorothée explains that in the city, if a girl does not have money of her own, the boys will chase her, but if a girl has her own money, boys respect her.   

 

“FOR GIRLS THAT DON’T HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY LIKE ISHAKA, THEY HAVE SEX EARLY AND THEN EARLY PREGNANCY FOLLOWS.”

 

Dorothée describes the best day of her life…

 

as the day that she was able to send 5,000 francs to her aunt’s village to buy a goat. This is common practice and appears to be a symbol of success: being able to afford animals in the rural setting. Dorothée says she’s proud to be able to financially support even her extended family.

 

Dorothée dreams…

 

that her daughter will go to school, and she also plans to talk to her daughter about sex.

 

“I DID NOT HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO TO SCHOOL AND I REGRET THIS. I ONLY WENT TO A CHURCH SCHOOL AND LEARNED TO WRITE; I WANT SOMETHING BETTER FOR MY DAUGHTER… TALKING ABOUT SEX IS NORMALLY TABOO IN OUR SOCIETY BUT I WANT MY DAUGHTER TO LEARN ABOUT THIS FROM ME.”

 

In the future, she wants to invest in others, give them capital, and get a percentage back from them. She says that thinking about her mother’s business, she believed it would be easy if she just had capital. Once she received her first loan, she realized that it was not as easy as she thought, but credits the Ishaka for giving her the capacity to achieve.

 

There are two key things she now needs…

 

“FIRST, WHAT I NEED IS ADVICE ON HOW TO INVEST. SECOND, I NEED CAPITAL TO EXPAND MY BUSINESS AND INVESTMENTS.” 

 

Dorothée now has her own shop at the market and is a role model for younger girls.

 

“GIRLS COME TO SEE ME HERE; THEY COME TO BUY THINGS AND THEY ASK HOW I DID THIS. THEY WANT TO BE LIKE ME.”

 


 

ABOUT ISHAKA: After years of war, Burundi is on a path to peace and development, but the outlook for adolescent girls is not as good. If things stay as they are, girls will hold only a quarter of private-sector jobs and formal credit and loans will be nearly impossible to come by due to a lack of collateral. Originally designed for women, CARE has adapted its Village Savings and Loan program specifically for adolescent girls in Burundi. Girls are organized into groups and make regular deposits into a group fund. Members can then take loans to invest in income-generating activities. Mentors oversee the groups and train the girls in financial education, life skills, and sexual and reproductive health. Financial resources give girls the leverage they need to control what happens in their lives, while training and access to a mentor and social network gives them the information they need to safeguard their own well-being. The government and local partners are supportive of these efforts.

 

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  1. By Kae Kohl on July 20th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Dorothee, you have a lot to be proud of. Please keep mentoring young women so they can take control of their circumstances, just like you have.




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