Training toolkits that effectively support young women.
I can feel that I am back within only a few steps from the airport, amongst the natural beauty, the life, the colours, the dust, the traffic, the car exhausts, the noise of car horns and shouts of annoyance and exuberance from the roads.
The first thing I noticed when landing in Liberia is the heat and humidity, it lands like a right hook.
The roadsides are stocked with hundreds of small businesses selling all matter of goods, fresh vegetables, soap, Apple X and other everyday essentials.
I am visiting Liberia for the second time and Sierra Leone for the fourth time, over the last weeks of November and the first weeks of December, on behalf of Peace Child International.
We work with disadvantaged young women to support them to grow their businesses, much like those hundreds of small businesses that I passed along the roadside. These young entrepreneurs often have had no or very little schooling, and they engage in business purely as a way of ensuring they are able to earn money to survive.
At Peace Child International we have developed an innovative training toolkit that effectively supports young women to analyse the local market. Identifying business opportunities, to develop a business financing strategy and a business plan. All of this is achieved using image-based training tools, especially designed to be fun and engaging, and inspired by the historical use of stories to educate people. The main objective of my trip was to work with our partners to support them in correctly using the toolkit. I was highly impressed with our trainers in Sierra Leone, they have been using the tools for a year and their ideas and experience has been useful for our new team in Liberia.
One of my favourite tasks during field trips is to follow up with the young women that have gone through our training. In Liberia, we had the opportunity to attend the university graduation party of Yei Neagor, who participated in our training in 2014. Using the skill’s she learnt, she set up a small business using $150 to sell drinks and biscuits near a garage, thereby drawing all the taxi transport trade. She used her profits to not only grow her business but also to pay herself to go to university. Her business is now established and she owns her own shop, she is now independent.
In Sierra Leone, I met with some of the participants that went through the training in 2016, the first to use the complete image based toolkit. I met with several women, all of whom are now planning to grow their businesses, applying the skills and ideas generated during the training.
In the village of Bandjuma, the women entrepreneurs collaborate to share the costs of transporting goods to and from the main urban centre, Kenema, for their businesses. This form of collaboration saves individual entrepreneurs money, time and effort, and builds the basis of mutual support amongst peers that could lead to future benefits.
Madame Xenab of the village Koi in Kenema District was for me, one of the most inspiring stories. She is 32 and has four young children, before receiving any training her and her husband were trying to make ends meet using whatever they could grow on their small farm. The training inspired her to start a business. Using a local saving group, whereby members pay in every week and each different member gets the total saved on different weeks, she has been able to generate a small amount to invest in starting a business selling dried chilli peppers, onions, oxo cubes, cooking oil and other things in small quantities that people need daily for cooking. Using her earning’s she is able to buy more stock, and take a small salary. She is currently not earning a significant amount but what she makes goes to help cover her and her family’s needs, making it easier for the family to manage day by day.
Currently a member of another saving group, Xenab plans on using the pay-out she will receive to invest in more products. Her experience of running her businesses has provided more information, in addition to the market research, she did during the training. Highlighting what local people what and need to buy, she is confident that the stock she will buy response to local demand. By gaining more stock she will be able to earn more every week from her business. Her business strategy is infinitely repeatable, allowing her to slowly grow her business without significantly increasing the risks of losing her investment, or taking on debt that she may not be able to repay. Xenab has gone from struggling to having a plan for the future and knowing that she will herself be able to support her family.
This project has exceeded all expectations and allowed hundreds of women like Yei and Xenab, to build a future for themselves and their families. We are excited to continue this journey with other young women across Liberia and Sierra Leone.
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Written by Rob Giddings our Operations Director here at Peace Child.
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