We’ve been looking at the photos we got from Senegal-based photographer Rebecca Blackwell from a trip in March in Mali to visit several Saving for Change groups in the southern part of the country near Bougouni. I want to share a few of Rebecca’s portraits and some quotes from the women we met, just because I have been thinking about them lately. I detected a common theme in each village and group: dignity. The women described how saving and borrowing money from their group helped them manage their affairs independently. You can see pride in their faces, and hear it in their words.
Soumba Doumbia, mid 30s, three children, sells cloth and clothing to earn extra money.
“Before we established our group, we had no hope. If we had problems and needed money, we had to go to a nearby town and borrow it. We would ask people here for help, but they did not always say yes. Now we can find money for our problems from the group.”
Salimata Mariko, 48, entrepreneur and mother of seven.
“I borrow 1,000 francs [about $4] and buy oil and beans to make beignets [little fried cakes]. I make about five batches and sell them, and I make a profit of around 3,750 francs [$7.50] after I pay back the loan each month. I also travel to the border with Côte d’Ivoire and buy yams and sell them here. With the money I make, I buy clothes for my kids for holidays like Tabaski. I might even get a present for my husband… but I won’t say what exactly in front of all these people here.”
Mamoune Diarra, 25, mother of 3, also makes beignets.
“One of the things I have gained is that I can buy equipment for cooking. I can build a business with the money I borrow from the group. I also buy medication for my children. Some things have gotten better for me because of the group. I dress better, and bathe more often, because I have to go to the group meetings on Sunday well dressed and clean.”