Leadership and Ambition
The sun, at 111 degrees, beats down, scorching everything it encounters. A group of seven women sit proudly together, huddled under a tree casting a small shadow, eager to share how their life has been changed since working with World Vision and VisionFund. In the remote village of Tamangando, eight hours east of Dakar the capital of Senegal, Kany Sidibe, age 43, welcomes us into her home where she lives with her husband and seven children. Kany is the president of the women’s saving group that is in attendance and also a prominent leader in her community, educating other women on the opportunities that exist to help them create a better future for their family and children.
Kany, who at first glance appears quiet and reserved, is a woman who is passionate and driven to accomplish the ambitions goals she has set for herself. Despite having no formal education because her parents lacked the financial resources to send her to school, she was determined to make something of herself. She shared that as early as she could remember she dreamed of being a successful saleswoman. She saved up her money as a child and purchased some clothing that she turned around and sold to people in her community. She was impressed with how quickly she was able to sell the clothing and said it was at that point that she realized she was a natural at sales. As she grew older, she continued seeking out items to sell that would be more enticing to her customers.
After she got married and started a family, she changed from being a merchant to farming. Many farmers struggle to maximize their crop production because of Tamangando desert climate. Katy was no different, harvesting just enough to provide food for her family with minimal produce remaining to sell. World Vision was working in Kany’s village and she saw that the farmers were harvesting larger quantities and better-quality vegetables. She was determined to participate in one of the World Vision training programs offered to savings group members.
Kany immediately formed a savings group with other women in the community so they could be trained on how to improve their crop production. World Vision provided the group with agriculture training and financial management education, teaching them how to manage their profits by reinvesting in their business. Farming in Tamangando has as short planting and harvesting period so World Vision trained them on how to make soap and bleach to diversify their business and provide income in the off season. Kany said, “The training World Vision provided made me feel very proud of the skills the group learned and what they were now accomplishing. The soap also improved my family’s health as we used it for washing and it cured a rash I had on my arm for years.”
World Vision then introduced the savings group to VisionFund in March of 2018. The first loan the savings group received from VisionFund was used to purchase sheep to bread and sell. They decided on sheep because they have the largest profit margin. They sell each goat for 25,000 to 40,000 CFA ($43 to $69 USD) and make a profit of 7,500 to 10,000 CFA ($12 to $17 USD). The local village is rather remote and does not have a local market that attracts people from surrounding areas. This has limited the group’s customer base, which is why Kany has created a payment plan for customers who are unable to afford the upfront cost to purchase a sheep. The lack of local market is not limiting the group, they have set their sights higher than just selling in their community. The group is working to obtain certificates for their animals so they can sell them in Dakar at one of the largest markets in the country.
For all of the women in the group, lives have improved since receiving the training from World Vision and the loans from VisionFund. Katy shared her own experience, “People don’t have to help me anymore feed my family or pay for school fees, now I do it all for myself.” She stated that she is the big boss now and dreams of someday having a larger trade business that would involve going to Dubai and bringing back goods to sell in Senegal. Her relationship with her husband has also improved because they no longer have disagreements about money, and she manage her money how she wants. Her husband expressed how very proud he was of what she has accomplished and how she has helped the family. He even said if she were to have trouble paying back the loan, he would help her because he has seen how much the loan has helped improve the life of the family.
The VisionFund loan officer who has been with the savings group since the beginning shared the transformation that he has witnessed. He said in the beginning the women were afraid to take out a loan but after educating them on how to use the loan to improve their businesses he said that the women have flourished since the first loan. VisionFund invests in women entrepreneurs because they reinvest their profits into improving the life of their family. Katy stated it best when she said, “It is good to invest in women because they care about the family, good education, they work hard and do they best they can to better their conditions.” Katy continues to inspire other women in her community by sharing encouragement and helping other women form savings groups by sharing her personal story. She shares how before the loan from VisionFund she struggled to provide food for her children or pay their school fees to now where all of her children are in school, their health has improved, and she is able to provide more nutritious and better-quality food. Katy is providing women hope and a connection to VisionFund, in an effort to help them rise above their circumstances and opening the doors of opportunity.