Our mentoring program has proven to be wildly successful in partner communities. It takes six years for a child to complete primary school, which brings us to ask: how can an education program like mentoring become self-sustaining? By empowering the women behind it with income generating opportunities.
In rural Niger, families eke out subsistence level survival dependent on the seasons and the health of their livestock, with little or no opportunities to make an income. Women are often on their own to support their families as men search for work in neighboring countries.
RAIN provides resources and training to women in partner communities, enabling them to channel entrepreneurial skills into income generating opportunities of their own choosing. The type of enterprise chosen depends on the region - in the northern communities of the Agadez region, goat herding is a popular choice, while sheet embroidery and tailoring may be more popular in Tillaberi communities. Participants choose if they'd like to start their business as a group undertaking, or on an individual basis.
In the case of herding, workshops in animal husbandry and nutrition are provided and follow up field visits are conducted on an ongoing basis. Additional income can be made from the production of salt licks and the sale of milk. A common rural practice called embouche entails building up of livestock for sale during the holiday of Tabaski, when there is a high demand.
Mentors agree to contribute a portion of their earnings to support the mentoring program - usually by purchasing the supplies for practical and artisanal workshops. Their status as role models to mentored girls and women in the wider community increases as they inspire self reliance.
“Our lockbox has helped us so much. We have even seen benefits from this program besides being able to take out loans. We have the ability to do small business activities that help us with our needs. It is also the solidarity that we have found in this group that has really interested me. Thank you.” - Ekasen Tumouhoutar S&L Treasurer Mariama Mohamed
A new initiative, Savings and Loan Groups organize 20-40 mentors and women from the wider community to save together – contributing loans and generating interest as they learn basic economic skills to help them become more financially independent. S&L's begin with a seed fund provided by RAIN. Each member contributes a weekly amount from which individuals take out monthly loans on a rotating basis. Funds are used at the discretion of each member - to support small businesses or provide food, medicine and schooling for their families.
Each week of savings is counted as a bean dropped in a Nescafe can
We choose the S&L model over the micro finance option because we feel it’s imperative members invest their own funds. Participants are regularly astounded when they discover how their contributions grow over time. Saving is not a part of nomadic culture, and S&L's serve to teach the concept of saved sums adding up towards a common goal. After extensive weekly trainings over the first 3 to 4 months, members begin overseeing meetings and making decisions. As the core group of women gain the ability to run their S&L group independently, some will go on to train more women in new groups.
Enjoy this video featuring the Ekasen Tumouhoutar (Relieving the Burden) S&L and then join the circle of empowerment with your donation.
RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara is a nonprofit 501(c)3 working to make a lasting difference in Africa.