Latana Abdou: A Woman on the Move

Lantana Abdou: A Woman on the Move

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Elizabeth Adéwalé, CARE Niger

“Thanks to CARE I have become a mirror for the women of my community.”

Lantana Abdou, 45, lives with her family in Massaourari, a small village in Niger about 600 kilometers from the capital Niamey. The mother of seven used to spend her days taking care of her family. But Lantana had no income of her own and her husband was not working. Without money, the family struggled to buy food.

“We lived in hardship. We experienced poverty and hunger to its core,” says Lantana. Narrating her story, Lantana explains how her children would often go for three days without eating - and how she lost her son Ismael. Without enough to eat, Ismael became malnourished but to get him to treatment at the health center, Latana had to cross a river. “While crossing the river, I lost control. My son fell, and he drowned.” She pauses for some minutes.

Lantana knew she had to earn a living for her family to survive. She took all kinds of jobs. She sold water in the village market, she worked as a farm laborer, she filled bags of peanuts for money, and she cut palm leafs to make rope. "I became a laughing stock in my community,” she recalls.

In 2005, Lantana took the bold step of joining a village savings and loan group (VSL) called “husa’a,” meaning “Innovation” in Hausa, the local language. “Initially I was reluctant,” she says, but Lantana was determined to open a new chapter in her life. The first Village Savings and Loan group popularly known as Mata Masu Dubara (Women on the Move) in Niger was established by CARE in 1991 and is still going strong.

Lantana signed up for different trainings ranging from entrepreneurial skills to leadership, literacy, and girl’s education. Using her newly acquired skills, Lantana took a loan from her savings group and a started cattle breeding business. “I buy animals that I fatten and sell them later to make profit. The business grew fast. Then I ventured into peanut oil extraction and farming,” she says.

Nowadays, with the profit she has made from her businesses, Lantana owns two houses, seven goats, two cows, one sheep, and six hectares of farming lands where she grows millet, beans, peanut, and sorghum.  “I thank God that today I have more than enough,” she smiles. “I celebrated the marriage of one of my daughters, I paid for my children’s school fees, my family living conditions have improved and I am financially independent. Everything I am and own today is because of the savings and loan group.”

Lantana’s leadership trainings were so inspiring; she joined a political party, and is an influential member of her community. “I wish to become a councilor or a government minister,” she says. “Thanks to CARE I have become a mirror for the women of my community”.

With her earnings from the VSLA program, Lantana now has two houses, a thriving farm, is politically active, and (most importantly) is paying for her children's education. Photo by Elizabeth Adewale/CARE.