CARE: VSLA Gives Hope to a School Dropout

Aicha With Her Mentors

It is a quarter past 10 in the morning and women, both young and old, are trouping to the community center in haste, chatting breezily with faces full of joy.

It’s time for the Wende Panda Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) meeting at Aki Kouamekro, a cocoa farming community in the western part of Cote d’Ivoire. VSLAs in West Africa have become the backbone for economic growth, particularly for the women of this community, most of whom can now earn their own income.

Aicha, who is now 22, dropped out of school at age 15 because her parents could not no longer afford to pay for her education; her father's income from cocoa farming was inadequate to meet the needs of the family, and like most women in Aki Kuoamekro, Aicha’s mother was not working at the time. When her education ended, so did Aicha’s dream of becoming a nurse.

But with determination to earn her own income, Aicha joined the Wende Panda VSLA – one of the group’s youngest members - and saved what little money she could to support herself. After a few months of regularly attending VSLA meetings, she learned from other women in the group how to prepare attieke, a local delicacy made from pounded cassava.

With her first VSLA loan, Aicha started her own attieke business. Her mother is now a VSLA member and a business partner, and with her earnings, she now supports the education of her younger siblings. Aicha’s VSLA experience has taught her the usefulness of savings and she is now determined to save and educate all her children with the hope that one of them becomes a nurse. Although her hopes for a better future once seemed impossible, thanks to the support of a CARE VSLA, she has renewed confidence in what the future holds.

Photo Credit: 
Priscilla Sogah / CARE