Girls Around the World - Salamatu's story
Salamatu was in a Sierra Leone business school and on her way to fulfilling her dreams, when the bottom fell out of her world. Her father and brother both died, leaving her with no way to pay the school’s tuition fees. She was forced to drop out.
Salamatu sells her rice in the market
Salamatu had no savings and no means of earning an income. Unemployment is a huge problem for youth in Sierra Leone, and although Salamatu knew what she wanted in life, she couldn’t see any way of getting there without support, because she is a girl.
“I was just helping my aunt and at the end of every day she gave me something to eat,” Salamatu says, describing the difficult times.
Help from the Plan Youth Microfinance Project
Then one day, a friend told her about a local Savings and Loans Group in the community, supported by Plan. Savings and Loans Clubs can provide financial services where banks don’t. They’re almost like mini-banks! The Freetown groups are part of a Plan project called the Youth Microfinance Project, which kicked off in 2010 and will run for 4 years. To date, 1,077 group members have been given financial training and support in Freetown.
Salamatu raced to join the group in her community, and was soon able to take out two small loans. A fierce believer in the power of education, she used one loan to pay her tuition fees and re-enroll at the business school. “I know my education will benefit me for the rest of my life,” she says.
The other loan went to buy a bag of rice to start a small business. “I was only selling one bag of rice every day, but I made a profit,” says Salamatu, ”And every day I was able to do that I could use the profit to buy more rice.”
Back to school
Now Salamatu’s finances are on track. She uses the money she earns from her small business to pay her school fees and pay off her loans. With her determination and interest in business, she has also become the chairwoman of her Savings and Loans Group.
“I want to be a big business woman,” she says. “That’s why I am studying at business school, so that I will have more ideas on how to trade successfully.”
Salamatu’s teacher says he is very proud of her commitment. “For somebody to be saving 1,000 or 2,000 leones, it is very difficult. You have to sacrifice,” he says admiringly.
Salamatu realizes her dream
It certainly isn’t easy. Every day, Salamatu sets up her small rice stall in a local market around 8.00 a.m. and sits on the roadside in the baking sun until 4.00 p.m. Then she takes off to the business school for three hours of further work in the classroom.
For Salamatu, it’s all worth it. “It’s like my dream was dead during the time I dropped out of school,” she says. “Now I have realized that my dream will really come to pass one day.”
Salamatu is one of over 3,000 young people in Freetown, Sierra Leone, taking part in Plan’s youth savings and loan programs.
Like Salamatu, they are receiving the opportunity to see their dreams fulfilled one day.
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