A portrait of Fati in her village in Niger. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Adewale/CARE Niger)
By Elizabeth Adéwalé, communication officer, CARE Niger
Fati Tahirou, 48, lives in Kogourou, a village in the Tillabéry region of Niger. Fati is a single mother of eight children. As her family’s breadwinner, she takes care of all her children’s needs, including their education.
For Fati, every day was a struggle for survival, making sacrifices to feed her children and keep the family afloat.
“My children and I were surviving by eating fakou” (fakou is Jew’s Mallow cooked with local ingredient and water to make soup), explains Fati.
Fati bought the fakou from the market in a neighboring village and carried it to Niamey where she sold it for a small profit. Niamey, the capital of Niger, was a walk of more than 15 kilometers. Fati made the walk every day with her youngest child, sometimes in the burning sun (temperatures can reach as high as 50 degree in this part of Niger) or, in the wet season, in the rain and mud.
On a good day Fati’s efforts make her 250 FCFA (Franc to the French Colonies in Africa), around 0.43 USD. “I could not even buy myself a cloth,” she says. For Fati, providing for her family had become almost impossible.
In 2013, Fati took a giant step and joined the Alhamdoulilahi (thanks to God) group, a newly established Village Savings and Loans (VSL) group in her village. The group was part of the women’s VSLs across Niger originally begun by CARE in 1991. Joining the group opened up a whole new world to Fati. In addition to helping her grow her savings, Fati joined trainings to develop her skills in small scale business, leadership, literacy, soap manufacturing, gardening, and community life.
With her savings and the training in small business, Fati set up a stand selling fried fish by the roadside. But she found it wasn’t meeting her needs and her family was still facing hardship. So, Fati took the decision to change direction and set up an import/export business, an ambitious step as it involved establishing ties with traders in other countries. “I took a loan of 200,000CFA (345.88USD) from my VSL group, which I used to buy goods to carry from Niger to Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, and vice versa. These goods included head scarfs, bed sheets, soaps, curtains, cloths, brooms, and condiments.” It was the right move - Fati’s business became so successful that she was able to pay back her loan within two months.
Four years later, in 2017, the Alhamdoulilahi VSL group has become part of a federation of 881 members with Fati as the vice-president. On a personal level, Fati can now meet her financial needs, cater for her household, and pay her children’s school fees.
“Recently my third son graduated from secondary school and my last born is now in fourth grade. I was able to pay for the wedding ceremonies for both my eldest son and my daughter,” says Fati happily. For a woman who was once unable to buy even a single cloth, “today I can buy one that is worth of 25,000CFA (43.23USD).”
Fati isn’t content to stop there. Her next steps include expanding her business portfolio, but her greatest plan is to buy land, enough to leave for her children as inheritance. She also wants to be a politician. “Land as an asset is important, it never loses its value,” says Fati proudly. “I want to buy land for my children to build on. I want them to be proud of me, that I left them an inheritance.”
Learn more about CARE's work in Niger
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