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Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship

by Reach Out NGO
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Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Loretta in her newly rented shop with her baby
Loretta in her newly rented shop with her baby

After the identification of 75 Internally Displaced women and girls in Limbe, Ekona and Buea through a door to door process using a Social Enquiry form,  63 women were finally targeted for our Keep a Girl Alive Program through Entrepreneurship based on their level of vulnerability and willingness to be engaged into business. 40 women were assisted in Buea, 12 in Ekona and 11 from Limbe. A detailed business plan was drawn by each of these women together with the Reach Out Team. Trainings took place in Buea, Limbe and Ekona on the 8th, 20th and the 27th of November 2019 respectively.

Two days after each training, the Reach Out team carried out business site visits. out of the 40 women in Buea, 35 were evidently seen doing business while 10 were seen but had not started due to some minor logistical challenges, like they are setting-up the supply of their goods from the farm to the towns. 5 women were not seen but were communicated with on phone.

Loretta who is an Internally Displaced Person from Mamfe started her own expansion the same day she received the grant. She lives with a family uncle of hers in Buea. “I came to Buea in February and stayed in the house without doing anything for three months. Life was not easy. We were 3 of us who ran from Mamfe living with my uncle with our babies. He struggled all alone to cater for us. The burden was too much on him until in July, he gave me 15.000 francs ($30) to start doing something so I could support myself and my baby. I could barely start anything apart from sewing. I bought all the necessary equipment like thread, needles, scissors just to name a few so I could sew some dresses. I bought materials to sew just for 10,000 frs and had to buy other things like the Zips, linings and others to sew.

I went to a tailoring shop already well-established and rented a machine there for two days which cost me 3,000 CFA ($6) for two days. I was able to sew seven good simple Cabas (traditional dress and hawk around to sell. I sold one for 3500 FRS ($7). Though the capital and the profit prevented me from doing more, I was just happy for the fact that I could leave the house and put my skills to use.

The day I received the grant from Reach Out, I saw myself in another dimension.  I took that money that same 8th of November went to a place I had seen available for rents. Immediately I paid the landlord 13,000 frs ($26) rent for a month. I bought materials and my sewing equipment in bulk. I saw a second hand machine on sale so I took it and promised to pay in instalments. I have entered a daily Njangi (Savings group) in which I save 3,500 frs ($7) on a weekly basis. My son and I can now have three square meals a day. I have many customers now and the demand for my products have greatly improved  am so happy to own and manage my own shop. I can now take full responsibility of my child and bring food in the house without my uncle giving me money.

By March 2020 I intend to rent my own room, bring my younger brother who is in Mamfe with my parents so that he can go to school here in Buea. I intend to be one of the biggest fashion designers in Buea and to also employ other young girls.”

Thank you so much for helping girls like Loretta  realize their dreams in dignity through your donations.

Carine selling food stuff in the market
Carine selling food stuff in the market
Chamba preparing her vegetables for the market
Chamba preparing her vegetables for the market
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Joy at her business place
Joy at her business place

Doing business in the middle of a civil war is really challenging. This is the case in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon in particular. The economy seems dangling, with the numerous “Ghost towns”, curfews and lockdowns. However, monthly site visitats and strict follow-up of book keeping show that over 70% of program participants this month are showing improvement. They are gradually standing on their feet whereever they find themselves. Some have been displaced from Tole to urban centers like Buea and Limbe. They moved out again due to the weak economy of the village and the increasing insecurity.

“I am so grateful to be a beneficiary of this program” says Esua, one of the beneficiaries. “Despite the challenges I faced in Tole such as constant harassment from the Military and non-state armed groups, slow business turnover and lack of education for my children, and the ones I am facing here in Buea as a “refugee” [she is actually an internally displaced person, but they refer to themselves as refugees], I still have something to hold on to. My business for which you gave me the capital. Life is not easy here in Buea. I have left my own house which I had furnished and equipped well thanks to this business. I was able to join hands with my husband and we built our own small house in Tole.  Due to the crisis, we were forced to move to Buea and rent again. Here in Buea, while my husband struggles every day as a taxi man, I move from market to market to do my business. Though it’s so stressful and tiring, I don’t regret it. My children go to school here, unlike in Tole where they had stayed out of school for 2 years because of this crisis.

“This crisis is like a bad joke” said Joy, another beneficiary based in Tole. She has been displaced and came back on several occasions in the past year and a half.  Despite the slowness of economic activities, she stood her grounds in Tole. “People must eat” she said.  For more than a year she has been doing buying and selling of food stuffs with your support. (You can check her out in the project video, which was recorded about a year ago.) She is today one of the major suppliers of Eru in Tole. Though there is no school going on in Tole, Joy is able to send her children to other places like Douala to continue their education. No matter how many times she runs to other areas for safety, she is comfortable coming back to Tole, where she has mastered the market and has a great network of clients and a sure source of income.

Like her, hundreds of thousands of men women in this conflict area have managed to navigate life or death environments with multiple armed actors. They carry out normal business activities that help keep the living standards in their communities.

Thank you for supporting them. This month we will be expanding the program by supporting 40 new displaced women living in Buea and Limbe, and 20 from Ekona, another conflict-affected area where Reach Out carries out humanitarian activities (Food Distribution, Water Hygiene and Sanitation, and provision of services for victims of Gender-Based Violence), the 20 girls have been identified from these different programs. We will keep you posted.

Claudine in her Restaurant
Claudine in her Restaurant
Violet standing in  front of her shop
Violet standing in front of her shop
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Shirlie with some of the fish she smokes and sells
Shirlie with some of the fish she smokes and sells

Due to the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, many women and girls have become much more vulnerable than before. Hundreds of thousands of women have been internally displaced thereby exposing them to all form of exploitation. It was on this note that Reach Out NGO decided in July 2019 to train 10 vulnerable women who have shown interest in business on how to maintain a successful business, bookkeeping and the advantages of savings. And most importantly, gave them grants to start their businesses.

Among these new beneficiaries is Shirlie who recounts her life in the bush in Munyenge, one of the most affected villages in the South West Region.

"I used to sell cooked food in Munyenge. But things turned sour on the 1st of October 2018. The military stormed our village in search of Non-State Armed Groups. Everything of ours was scattered including the food in the flasks i was selling, and we all ran to the bush without carrying anything.

Life in the bush was frustrating and challenging. We lived in a cocoa oven for this period of time. [Picture of a sample cocoa oven in the gallery]. We were 35 of us living in a cocoa oven. It was like a whole society comprising of babies, adults and the old. There in the bush there was no boundary as to who owns what. Anything that was eatable we took and ate, not minding who owns it. Plantains, plumps, tubers of people we don’t know became ours. We mostly roasted all these because we did not carry pots. Young women like me were mostly the ones looking for food because our young boys were at risk. The military targeted them and killed them claiming they are “Ambas” [members of the insurgency groups]. As for water, you don’t drink because the water is clean but because you are thirsty. Any liquid was drinkable in the bush. We drank it not minding the smell or colour. As for medication, herbs and tree trunks helped us so much. Without any proper diagnosis, our parents and grandparents living with us gathered herbs and tree trunks and boiled for the sick to take. Most at times they just assume is malaria or typhoid that one is sick of.

My family and I stayed in the forest for over 7 months In March 2019. A friend of mine who had ran from Munyenge asked me to come to Buea and start anew. Unfortunately, things did not turn out as planned. Living with my friend’s brother was not really easy. I was not doing anything to contribute to the welfare of the house. One day he told me that he wants me to be his girlfriend which I refused, this resulted to problems in the house. I could not do anything freely and was always uncomfortable. It came to my mind that I should look for another place to stay. So I complained to my aunty who is married to a pastor and have been displaced too from Muyuka to Buea. Though their house too is saturated she begged a neighbor of hers here to lend me this place where I am presently. I have been living here with my son. Unfortunately, the people I stay with say he disturbs a lot and eats a lot. To avoid problems, I sent him to my mother, who has successfully left the bush and is also in Buea. I have longed to have something stable doing since I came to town. Since March 2018, I have been doing manual jobs like tilling the soil, weeding people’s farms for money. Thanks to one of such jobs that I was able to have 5000 francs [8.5 dollars] to bring my son to Buea.

Being one of the beneficiaries of this program gives me hope and joy because with this my new business, I can rent a room of my own, be able to cater for my children and my parents. I also intend re-starting my food business when I have enough capital. "

 Thank you for being there for her.

  

training on entrepreneurship at Reach Outs office
training on entrepreneurship at Reach Outs office
Follow-up meeting with project participants
Follow-up meeting with project participants
group picture after follow-up meeting
group picture after follow-up meeting
Awat during training with her baby
Awat during training with her baby
An example picture of a cocoa oven
An example picture of a cocoa oven
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The keep a girl alive program so far in this past months has not been as effective as we would have liked, due to the on-going armed conflict. There were several curfew days issued by the Non-State Armed Groups, and there was constant confrontation between the two sides of the conflict in Tole, making the community very insecure..  We are still in touch with the program participants.  43% of girls are still in the area, and doing business. A small percentage are in the area, not doing business, and the majority have left and are doing business elsewhere. All participants are still doing bookkeeping.  Monthly profits dropped in March by about 33%, and are now beginning to improve. With an average working capitalof 28,517 FRS (roughly 50$), some of the businesses are barely surviving.They try to adapt to the current situation, as some of them change their line of businesses just to make sure they survive this period.  

For the past two months we have noticed an increase in the request for loans. These loans are use to boost their working capital.Also some of the girls return to the community with no capital and had to request for loans to start all over again.  Thanks to your donations, they have a support to rely on. As the environment getscalm by the day more girls keep coming back to the area. So far from the last follow up in the month of May it shows that a good number of them are back in the community but some are yet to start doing business again.

Despite the difficult times some of the girls still keep up to their commitments to saving. At least 35% of the girls save every month this shows that they are very much active even in the current situation. We look forward to having in the coming months an increase in the profit as well as their capital.

Comment from our volunteers.

Lewin: The frequent lock downs and attacks from the non state armed groups, have left the community in a state of fear, putting activities and business on a standstill. Also some of the girls have been disturbed with some medical issues such as children being hospitalized, and there are others who have been sick for quite a while now and had to move to other areas in search for medical help. Many other girls have been showing interest in the program by trying to register.

Adeline: The poor network has weakened the follow up system as it was always difficult to reach the beneficiaries and on time, the Insecurity also contributes, as there were lockdowns and sometimes signals that violence might erupt. All these had a direct effect on the turnout of beneficiaries during follow up (May).

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Melvis during market day
Melvis during market day

It was another challenging season for our participants as some of them were at the verge of losing everything due to the Anglophone crisis. Some businesses could not survive the conflict, while some have persevered all throughout this period. Most of the participants had to change their businesses. Overall, the period was not a favorable one as their average profits dropped by roughly 20%. But despite this situation, our participants are still defying all odds and making a living by themselves.

Melvis has been with us since March 2018. She sells fresh vegetables like pepper, onion, okra and tomatoes. She did not move during this year, while the conflict was escalating, but rather stayed back and continued with her business. Despite receiving threats from the military she didn’t want to move. She was accused of being the one feeding the guerilla.

As the conflict grew more and more violent and most people abandoned Tole, (August 2018) her store became one of the few ones in the village. She gained more customers and had to increase her supplies. At the point where the heat began cooling down a bit, Melvis had gained a larger market. During that period she made a profit of 194,700frs (roughly 400$) with a loan of 60,000 francs we gave her during that period. Nobody else would have given her credit in such an area and period, but that’s why your support is so important.

Melvis determination encouraged the rest. Besides the store, she has also created a small bar where she sells the local drink (palm wine). She dedicated a lot of time on both her businesses and while others were scared of investing their money, she took the risk and grew her business to where it is today. She was able to pay back the loan in a period of one month and took another for 120.000frs. She was admired by many. She is focused, push-pull and she is always available for follow-ups and does bookkeeping every day. She desires to see her children being educated and to live a comfortable life some day.

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Organization Information

Reach Out NGO

Location: Buea, South West Region - Cameroon
Website:
Project Leader:
Njomo Omam Esther
Executive Director
Buea, South West Region Cameroon
$69,494 raised of $79,985 goal
 
1,009 donations
$10,491 to go
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