Isha, pictured on left with her friend
Village Savings and Loan Groups have been used in a number of countries throughout the world, including Sierra Leone, to introduce low-income communities to the basics of saving money and planning for future expenses, particularly when banks are not easily accessible. These skills are especially valuable for young women in Sierra Leone, as more than 70% will be single mothers at some point in their lives.
Plan’s Because I am a Girl Program in Sierra Leone teaches these skills to girls as young as 7 years old, in Girls’ Savings and Loan Groups, in order to prepare them to manage money before they even get their first job. As with adults, these Savings Groups build confidence and provide a platform to teach other skills, such as public speaking, violence prevention, and business skills.
15-year-old Isha joined the Savings Group in her community of Songo, and was selected as a Girl Ambassador to teach her peers what she learned. “The most important thing I learned was how to talk in public,” she says. “I used to be quiet and not speak out, but now I am bold and confident.”
After a year of saving money, Isha gave the money that she’d saved to her mother, Tokumbo, who used it to pay for her school fees and invest in the family business. Tokoumbo, was impressed by what she saw.
“What was interesting to me was that the children really prepared for the Savings Group meetings — they washed up and put on their best clothes to go meet with each other,” says Tokumbo. “I admire my girl when she is bold now to stand up for her rights.
“And all of us parents were impressed by the money that the children could save. We decided that we wanted to do this Savings Group as adults. Now every Wednesday on market day, 10 of us meet together, and we each give 10,000 leons (about $2) to one person in our group. We’ve been doing this now for 15 weeks. Every week we give to a different person. This is all because of the girls who first started doing this.”
Girls’ Savings Groups in Sierra Leone build confidence and lay a practical foundation to help a girl thrive in the future. Moreover, these girls share their knowledge and skills with their families — revealing that if you educate a girl, you can change the world.
Isha's mother Tokumbo at the marketplace