Fatmata Forfanah from Gbalamuya in Kambia District, northern Sierra Leone, was used to taking a back seat when it came to contributing to farming and business in her community.
She explains: “Whenever my brothers sold a portion of our family land, I never received any share of the money. Education was something I was not allowed to have because as a woman, I would end up in a man’s house. We were forced into marriages because we did not know we had rights.”
But life has been transformed for Fatmata, and hundreds of other women in Kambia district, thanks to a European Union Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities (CSO-LA) programme, implemented by Trócaire,
Under the programe, Trócaire partner KADDRO (Kambia District Development and Rehabilitation Organisation) spearheaded the formation of women’s farming groups which were legally recognised with local authorities and eligible for government assistance.
In addition, Trócaire’s women’s empowerment partner ABC Development (Association for the Well-Being of Rural Communities & Development) worked to encourage the rights of women to own and access land, and to work in agriculture.
Fatmata and other women received training and support from KADDRO on the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) approach, as well as capacity building training from ABC Development.
Fatmata became a certified women’s champion within Kambia District and encouraged other women’s farming groups to get involved in the VSLA. She was elected Chairperson of the all women-led VSLAs within the district.
In her hometown of Gbalamuya, Fatmata negotiated a 10-year lease agreement for a plot of land for her farming group and the Ministry of Agriculture supplied rice seeds and trained the women on best farming practices to ensure they produced a quality harvest.
We are dignified women now, because Trócaire has shown us how. We know our rights, we own land and we have savings of our own, Fatmata says.
With access to loans from their VSLAs, Fatmata and other women have invested in other businesses, allowing them to diversify and reduce their dependence on agriculture.
Fatmata has now become a wholesale supplier of apples imported from Guinea to retailers in the Kambia district and she is proud of her achievements.
This case study is produced with financial support from the European Union through the CSO/LA project co-funded by Trócaire and implemented by the Association for the Well-being of Rural Communities and Development (ABC-D) and Kambia District Development and Rehabilitation Organisation (KADDRO) in Kambia District. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Trócaire and partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.