Women entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso

05 May 2010

Fatimata Leah Nahini produces a local brand of beer (dolo), which she sells in the market, thus generating a large profit. Since the opening of the Credit Union in Matiakoali, she was able to save money for the first time ever. Photo: Kerstin Gossé/UNDP
Without access to financial resources, escaping poverty is difficult. Through UNDP, a growing number of women from Burkina Faso take advantage of financial services that allow them and their families to become self-reliant and enjoy better lives.

30 year-old Fatimata Leah Nahini was forced to drop out of school at the age of 12, because her parents could no longer afford her tuition. Today, she is the recipient of a micro-loan through the Microfinance Sector Building Programme in Burkina (PRESEM). She can now buy millet in greater quantities in order to manufacture and sell a local brand of beer. She is doing well and her primary goal is to keep her four daughters in school.

“I work hard, so that my daughters can stay in school and have better opportunities”, she said, while showing what she was able to buy for her two eldest daughters this year: a uniform for the older one and school supplies for the younger one.

PRESEM is a UNDP/UNCDF/Fédérations des Caisses populaires du Burkina joint programme. Its goal is to improve access to local financial services and especially to income-producing activities for women in order to boost the local economy.

PRESEM has provided funds for the creation of five new credit unions, a micro-finance co-op which provides banking services for poor people, who would normally have no access to financial services. The programme also provides support to four existing credit unions. All nine institutions are located in remote areas in Southern and South-Eastern Burkina Faso. Most beneficiaries are illiterate and not banking savvy. Therefore, a strong presence is needed in the field to follow up on activities in the villages. Each credit union hired a facilitator who worked with the women, from the initial outreach phase to their obtaining a micro-loan, to launching their business and paying back the loan.

Microfinance contributes to achieving the MDGs, such as universal primary education. Thanks to the money saved through a micro-loan, Fatimata Leah Nahini was able to pay her 10 year-old daughter Boima Thombiano’s tuition and school supplies amounting to approximately $22 (CFA 11000). Photo: Kerstin Gossé/UNDP
To secure larger and more sustainable micro-loans, women are grouped together through solidarity-based village credit unions. Each woman has her own income-producing activities, but they hold the loan collectively. If one woman defaults on her share of the loan, her fellow members of the credit union back her in solidarity.

Since the opening of the first credit unions in June 2009, 3500 women have benefited from micro-loans through 269 village-based credit unions. Most of them do the same things as Fatimata Leah Nahini: food products, millet beer production, soumbala and donut manufacturing. Others raise sheep and cattle.

After each credit cycle, women can get a more substantial loan and improve their lives.

“Not only do micro-loans increase the women’s income, they also boost their confidence. A woman who got a loan and was able to pay it back with interest speaks with confidence and her status in the community improves”, said Kadiatou Koubere, who’s in charge of women activities for the PRESEM credit unions.

Fatimata Leah Nahini may not be rich, but her micro-loan gave her hope, as she started saving money, putting away $370 (CFA 182 700) in six months.

“I make more money and I can help my husband with his expenses. But if we do not save, we can not feel at ease. I have my own account, the money I put into it is for emergencies for my children and myself.”

Article by Kerstin Gossé