Somalilandsun – Sahra Abdilahi Libaan used to be so poor that she had to take out loans to buy food to feed her family. Today she is helping feed people struggling in poverty.
The turnaround is not just about her standard of living. The mother-of-five has new found confidence and a clear sense of direction and purpose.
Sahra lives in Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991, and as well as her own children, looks after three kids of her late sister. Two years ago, Sahra was illiterate and struggling to support the family.
The catalyst for change was when she joined a self-help group (SHG) run by Tearfund partner the Gargaar Organisation, which helps marginalised and often vulnerable women with basic literacy and numeracy and encourages them to save, becoming a source of credit to group members.
Tackling illiteracy has liberated Sahra: ‘I feel as if I was blind before because all the forms of text and numbers were irrelevant to me and made no sense,’ she said.
This training gave her confidence to start a grocery business, taking a loan from the SHG which she combined with some savings to get going.
This enterprise is a far cry from how Sahra used to try and make a living, earning less than £1 a day working at the local livestock market.
‘When the grocery business began generating income, I saved some money and combined this with another loan to purchase livestock,’ said Sahra.
‘My time in the market helped me to learn how to get a good deal and haggle with brokers. I slaughter the livestock on Thursdays and Fridays and sell the meat in the shops and some to local restaurants. I also sell the hides separately. I then invest the money to purchase more livestock.’
So far Sahra has taken out loans worth just under £100 and has repaid two and is repaying the third.
‘The business provides consistent income for us. All my children are in school and although it’s difficult for me, I’m now paying for university education for my eldest who is studying public health.
‘For me being able to provide for my family means I don’t have to rely on others for help anymore. Before I was always borrowing food on credit from local shops but luckily today I am giving people food on credit.
‘I have learned the SHG can develop us and help each of us achieve a higher level of life. What we can’t achieve individually, we can achieve as a group.’
There are now 95 SHGs, each comprising 15-25 vulnerable women, according to Chris McDonald, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Somalia and Somaliland.
‘Our partner Gargaar has a long term plan to assist women to form these SHGs with a view to strengthening support for women by women and increasing their voice in the community,’ said Chris.