Like many war-torn countries, women in Burundi remain the most vulnerable. After 13 years of civil war, women have been ostracised from the country’s financial community and occupy a mere 28 per cent of the private sector.
In 2008 Lifeline Energy worked with internationally reputed organisations CARE International and Microfinance Opportunities to change this through the Ishaka: Courage for the Future initiative. The project empowered over 6,178 poverty stricken girls from the ages of 14 to 22 in peri-urban and rural provinces of Bujumbura and Gitega.
Chala, a 16-year-old Burundian, is an example of how the country’s instability has affected its female population. In an interview with CARE International – an organisation that has been active in Burundi for 13 years – Chala said the father of her child “initially gave her food”, but after she became pregnant he left, resulting in her “family refusing to accept her back home.”
As Burundian women receive only 1.9 per cent of loans made by commercial banks, the Ishaka project helps girls who live in households and are heads of households to access safe savings and financial resources.
Lifeline Energy’s solar-powered and wind-up radios played an integral part of this initiative, by allowing groups of up to 40 to listen to financial literacy and life skills broadcasts.
The project was run through village savings and loans groups – also known as Solidarity Groups. Each group develops rules and regulations that meet the particular savings and loans needs. As the fund grows, members take loans to invest in income generating and social welfare? activities. All reimbursements are made with interest, allowing the fund to grow.