An Interview with Nancy
Nancy has worked for Peace Child International across the towns and villages in the Kenema district of Sierra Leone for the past seven years. We’re immensely proud of the work that Nancy and our other facilitators undertake in these communities, and also of her personal journey as a young female entrepreneur.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
The thing I enjoy most is that firstly I am a women and work with other women, so there is no barrier between me and the women that I train. But also as a facilitator I have been exposed to how to work within a community and how to engage the people. I have learnt a lot about these rural communities within Kenema district. Before I joined, I had only ever lived in Kenema city whereas now I cannot even count the number of communities I have worked in, I think over 60 towns and villages.
Why do you think it’s important to empower young women?
It gives them values, self-worth and they become self-reliant when they have their own money and their own job. It helps them and their families and their communities. If you empower a young women you have done a lot for that young women to stand strong in her community. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that, as young women I wasn’t really responsible, and relied on my family and parents to support me whereas now I can support myself, my family and others around me. Now that I don’t depend on anybody I can take decisions about my own life without interference from others, I get to chose how to live my life.
What difference do you see during and after you deliver the training to young women?
So much has changed, at first many of the women on the training weren’t really doing business, whereas now many are running successful businesses. Even better, those that took part are now helping other young women that did not do the training within their communities. Other women admire them now and think about their change in status – they can now raise money, have become key members of the community and are even considered now in community meetings and are asked for their opinions. There has been so much improvement – their businesses are growing, they are adding products into their business or changing products.
What difference do the savings groups make to women?
Think about the savings group, these women have taken up the savings group and now made them their personal banks – they can now save and access their own money to raise more funds for their businesses, without needing support from family or husband. As a woman we have a lot to do, for example I need to support my children and my family. So when I have my own money my husband cannot tell me how to use that money, I can choose and he has no control. If I have any issues that my husband will not support, for example my mother being ill I can handle it with my money not his. When women can buy anything from themselves that they need, they can live their lives with more freedom.
What have you learnt about entrepreneurship?
An entrepreneur is anyone that is doing business, it’s not just for big business but anyone, as long as you have business or idea and you can make money from that you are an entrepreneur. For example, I myself am now an entrepreneur, as I learnt so much from the training I decided to open my own business to increase my income. I started this business in January of this year selling water and cold drinks to make money, and that additional income is helping me to support myself and my family as well. How can I train people and see how these small business are growing and supporting the young women, why should I the person giving them the training not also lead by example and create my own business? That business has already made about 400,000 or 500,000 Leones of additional income per month. And in fact so far I have not removed money from my business but re-invested my profits to add additional products such as energy drinks and fizzy apple juice.
Do you see yourself as a leader?
Yes I do, I am leader for my family now, but also beyond – when other young women see me, another women being in a job and having male colleagues who are my equals they really admire me. I can always use myself as an example to them, that I lead from the front. They can see me riding a motorbike, delivering training, discussing with local officials of the communities and it gives them the belief that they can do that too. I feel that from seeing me, they can see that if you work hard that no one can stop you as a woman. If people do believe that women are not meant to do things, I think I am an example of women being able to do anything if they work hard and apply themselves.