Standing up for a Livelihood

Standing up for a Livelihood

Publication info

Serge Robson, CARE Madagascar

Crippled from birth, Viliazee Claudine’s life has always been a challenging one.  In her village of Ankilimitraha in the southern part of Madagascar, others have always put her down.  Unable to support herself, she has always relied on her mother and siblings for support.  Viliazee did what she could to help her mother, planting cassava and sweet potatoes on an acre of land to make a living.  She knew that she must find another way to support her mother, her four children, and herself.    

One day, CARE staff came to Viliazee’s village to talk about village savings and loans associations (VSLAs).  With her meager income from selling sweet potato leaves, Viliazee was able to join the Firaisan-kina (solidarity) VSLA.  The VSLA quickly grew to 25 members and then split into two separate groups.  Viliazee became part of the Mahavotse (savior) VSLA.

She used her first loan of approximately $5 in June 2010 to buy some sugar, salt, and cigarettes from the nearest market, which was about one mile away from her village, in order to resell them.  She did this several times, doubling, and then increasing five-fold the money she borrowed from the VSLA.  She never failed to repay her debts, which acquired her respect among her fellow VSLA members, and she was eventually appointed as one of the three key-keepers of the association's money chest.  When her daughter, Angeline, got sick and had to stay a whole month in the hospital, Viliazee was granted a special loan of about $80.  "That was a tough time." Viliazee acknowledged.  "I am grateful for the VSLA.  It really helped me."

Today, Viliazee earns five times what she earned three years ago.  "I was in need, but I never begged.  I just wanted to do the right thing for my children.  My priority is to support my children in their studies," she proudly announced.  "But I also have to provide for my family’s other needs.”  The school that her two older children attend is located in Sampona, a nine kilometer round trip that the children make daily on foot.  

To cope with challenges and hardships that arise in her life, Viliazee goes on borrowing money from the VSLA and grows her business.  She built a stand by the roadside to serve snacks such as coffee, roasted potatoes, abobo (local-made yogurt), cassava, mofo bokoboko (local donut) and even rum.  "This year, it was easy for me to cover Angeline’s and Justin's school expenses.  I had a loan from the VSLA for that, which I have fully reimbursed.”

Viliazee, now the pillar of her household, sees her children’s future as being bright.  "I am teaching my children only to count on themselves in their life.  I wish that Angeline would be a nurse or a doctor so that her mother would not suffer anymore and that Justin would be a policeman to protect me, to protect the weak," she said.  Finally, at the age of 33, Viliazee is afforded respect and admiration from others in her community.  Several people even give thanks to her for her generosity and her success.  Humble, Viliazee says she is just striving to stand by herself.