Sangita Shrestha, Communications Manager, Feed the Minds writes
As International Women’s Day (IWD) is approaching on 8 March this year, we are asking you to stand with us to challenge the discrimination faced by the women that our projects support. The theme for this year’s IWD is ‘embrace equity’ and we are asking you to give women like Kezia the chance to achieve their dreams.
Kezia Abua, a 33-year-old mother of seven, is a married woman. Her husband’s salary alone is not enough for a big family to sustain and live comfortably. Kezia engaged herself in brewing local alcohol in order to support her family. Whatever revenue she received from the sale of alcohol to the villagers, she ploughed back by buying more grain to make more alcohol. The proceeds from the alcohol business helped the family to some extent. However, she was not very happy as selling brew was not considered a respected business in the community.
When Kezia heard of the village savings and loan associations (VSLA) facilitated by Feed the Minds’ project partner Sudan Evangelical Mission (SEM), she was not sure that the loan from the VSLA could be beneficial.
The idea of owning a restaurant had been on Kezia’s mind for a long time because she believed she would get more customers from it. When she had saved some money, Kezia decided to look for a place to start a restaurant in Yeri, her home area. She borrowed the first loan from the VSLA with fear of repayment but to her surprise, immediately when she started selling food, it went well. Many customers turned up and the returns were quite impressive. After repaying the first loan, Kezia was motivated to utilise the services of the VSLA to grow her business further.
In a short span of time, Kezia was successful in expanding her business with the opening up of another restaurant in Mvolo. The business in Mvolo town grew even further with profits much higher than in Yeri.
Kezia while growing her business also became more confident in managing her 8 employees, working in her restaurants in Yeri and Mvolo. This transition not only made her economically sound but also empowered her in a society where women get fewer opportunities to progress.
The restaurant in Mvolo runs 7 days a week proving itself to be a main source of food for transporters and town dwellers. Kezia’s 3 employees in Mvolo earn on average SSD 800 (1GBP) per day and her daily revenue is on average SSD 45,000 (57 GBP) per day in Mvolo and SSD20,000(GBP 25) in Yeri.
Kezia’s earning is more impressive compared to many in the locality. On average, government officers in South Sudan earn SSD 30,000 (38 GBP) per month.
With this steady income, Kezia has managed to pay fees for her children, medical bills and do farming on large scale. The latest investment from her income was to purchase goats which she intends to keep for both meat and milk.
“Many women are held in poverty because of lack of access to financial services. Women engage in low-keyed activities like selling local brew and this increases their inferiority. I am an example to all that we can transform, I am an employer of 8 workers, and can sit with men to discuss issues.”
Kezia’s story demonstrates that there is a strong link between VSLA, women’s participation and gender equity and that women, when facilitated, can grow their businesses across regions.
Feed the Minds partnered with Sudan Evangelical Mission (SEM) to address food security and peace in Mvolo county. The implementation of the project resulted in the formation of village savings and loan associations (VSLA) an option for the community that had no access to financial services.