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Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship

by Reach Out NGO
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
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
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

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).

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.

Links:

Disbursement of 2nd and 3rd level grants.
Disbursement of 2nd and 3rd level grants.

Dear donors,

Thank you very much for what you have done so far for us and for the young women participating in the Keep a Girl Alive project.

While the situation all over Anglophone Cameroon is dramatic, with more than 400,000 persons internally displaced and daily casualties, our current project area calmed down a bit in the past two months. With hostilities between the two sides kept to a minimum, most project participants are slowly coming back. We closed the year supporting 43 of them with new business grants. A part of the grant was fixed, another part depended on how much they have saved throughout the year, as a "savings incentive".

These are the impressions of our volunteers and staff:

Sylvie Ebitoh: “So far it has been a challenging moment getting the beneficiaries together. The period has been a testing one for them, but still, most still push through to see that their businesses stay alive. A training on entrepreneurship was carried out, one at Reach Out’s office for those staying in Buea, Tiko and Limbe and one in Tole, in our field office. The program was the following:

  • Refresh Bookkeeping concepts.
  • Discussion on savings and its benefits
  • Business challenges and brainstorming on solutions
  • Drafting basic Business plans
  • Health talk on HIV/AIDS
  • Disbursement of 50.000FRS grants to beneficiaries
  • Disbursement of savings of 2018 plus saving incentives.
  • Recommendations

Levai Pensiga “The training was very educative and interesting for me as a new volunteer. I had the opportunity to interact with young women-at-risk. It was so exciting getting to know new things concerning bookkeeping too, which was something new to me. I could see how they can keep daily records of their income and expenditure. Everyone was amazed when one of the girls (Elizabeth) had a clean, uninterrupted, record of her business from 2016 to the present date. The interaction with the girls showed me that they understand issues of finances, and they are very open-minded. Everyone was very supportive, the collaboration from the participants made me more confident during the training.

The women were very happy with the exercise on savings. It had short lessons about how to save, the importance of saving and the benefits participants can have after saving with Reach Out. Many of the girls could even testify about the benefits of savings. As planned, we shared a pot of about 1,000 $ between all beneficiaries who saved, in a manner proportional to the amounts saved. The best of them was Blandine, who went home with her savings and a substantial grant, altogether almost 300$. When she got the news she almost collapsed out of excitement. Participants went home even more eager to start saving next 2019.”

Atem Akonjang “Since I was introduced to the Keep a Girl Alive project, It has been a wonderful experience. The life experiences shared by the beneficiaries in the field and the level of commitment showed by the girls are very inspiring and motivate one to have a passion for working. Nothing is satisfactory to me like when I see smiles on people’s face which come as a result of capacity building. Working on this project has been a ‘dream come true’.

As of now, the impact of this project can be visibly seen in the lives of its beneficiaries. It will be of great importance if such opportunities could be scaled-up out to other women in more communities, without forgetting the present beneficiaries.”

 

With this, we close 2018, a year where we helped as 123 young women to move out of extreme poverty and create permanent sources of income for themselves. We hope you have an amazing 2019.

Thank you very much.

Marie
Marie
training
training
Nancy
Nancy
training in Buea Office
training in Buea Office
Violet
Violet

Links:

 

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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
$66,179 raised of $73,985 goal
 
969 donations
$7,806 to go
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