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Grameen Foundation
Sophie Kandiel

There’s just one school in Sophie Kandiel’s village in central Burkina Faso. One school with six classes in a village of 4,000 people. When it rains, it’s tough to get around her community because there are only dirt tracks. And she’s lost count of how many times she has fed her children wild leaves flavored with a pinch of salt because that was all she had.

None of this has deterred Sophie. The mother of nine is determined to make sure all of her children are educated. Access to financial services has been key to her success.

By law, education is free until age 16 in Burkina Faso. In practice, parents often need to pay for school supplies and other fees and communities are frequently responsible for constructing primary schools and housing for teachers.

Sophie used to rely entirely on her husband to pay the fees, which often led to the children missing school. Then a few years ago she joined a small savings group with other women in her community through a Grameen Foundation program supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. With help from Grameen Foundation and the local nonprofit, Organisation des Églises Évangéliques, group members learned new techniques to grow their crops and conserve water and vital business skills to help them earn more from their produce.

Before long, Sophie took out a loan to start a new business brewing dolo (local beer) to help pay for school. The increased income has also enabled her to diversify her farm, and raise chickens. And, if needed, she can get a loan to help defray educational costs.

Sophie is also quite pleased that her savings group is contributing 1000 francs ($1.78US) for the annual upkeep of the school’s water well. Some groups have also offered dishes for the school cafeteria.

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