A Glimpse Inside the Life of an Empowered Borrower

During one of my routine field visits, I had the pleasure of meeting an incredible woman.  Pascaline, a very confident and friendly woman, welcomed me with wide open arms and made me feel very comfortable. Shortly after my arrival, we got seated and she started narrating her story with overwhelming pride on her face. 

She gave me a brief description of how she started her home-based enterprise and then walked me through the compound she shares with her husband, introducing me to her employees as we went along. I was very impressed to see all the men and women hard at work and to witness, firsthand, the process of transforming cassava into ready-to-eat attieké. 

Pascaline’s resilience and perseverance know no boundaries. She started her activity in 2007 with a small machine costing 20,000 FCFA (32 USD) that she bought with her own savings. After one year, she bought a bigger machine worth 60,000 FCFA (97 USD) but the profits were only enough to keep her afloat and she needed to expand her business. To that end, she reached out to Microstart, one of Kiva’s field partners in Burkina and applied for a 50,000 FCFA (81 USD) loan.  After 8 years of relentless work and determination, she managed to build an impressive enterprise and her working capital is topping 10,000,000 FCFA (16,102 USD).  She has 12 women and two young men working for her and she travels to Ivory Coast three times in a month to get cassava supplies. Her customers have grown to include the local university, the train station, nearby villages and even the neighboring countries of Niger and Benin. 

She went on to say that she is very proud of what she has achieved and one of her dreams is to see other women follow her footstep. In her quest to motivate women to do that, she took a group of five women (nearly all are widows) under her wings as the The Parate Yande Group. She introduced them to Microstart and the group members are now full beneficiaries of Kiva funds. In addition, she provides her employees with food on a monthly basis and assists them with school fees and supplies for their children. As for her own family, she is paying a school teacher to come to her house and help her younger child with her schooling. Her two grown are in college. 

It was truly an inspiring experience for me to see these women busy working at Pascaline’s site. They were hard at work but they were able to put on smiling faces and welcome anyone who came by. They work tirelessly day in and day out just to provide for their families and they were so cheering and appreciative of life. It was incredible!!

Pascaline’s story is a great example of the power of microcredit and it shows that it can indeed help the poor lift themselves out of poverty if used in the right way. Eight years ago she owned only one bike but now she owns three motos and two cars and she has been able to put her grown children through college. Her other dream is to own a transportation truck to cheaply procure her cassava supplies from in Ivory Coast.

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About the author

Aminatou Diallo

A native of Guinea, Aminatou attended the University of Conakry where she developed an interest in research into the quality of water, a major issue in Guinea that led her to study for a degree in Inorganic Chemistry. Her first job upon graduating was with a non-governmental organization that provided capacity building support and other services to rural women followed by a managerial position in a major freight and logistics company; Distribution International Merchandise (D.I.M s.a). In 1994, she won a World Bank scholarship to enter the Master’s Program in Economic Policy Management (EPM) at McGill University. After completing her studies at McGill, she worked for the United Nations and Women’s World Banking in New York before joining the State of New Jersey in 2002. She has been working here for the past twelve years in different capacities and most recently as an Instructor Counselor with mentally challenged patients. While she has enjoyed her recent assignment, her true passion has always been the empowerment of women through access to finance and other services. Aminatou has always believed that, given access to microfinance, women can break free from the cycle of poverty. She is very excited to embark on this significant role as a Kiva Fellow to pursue her passion helping the poor, particularly women, attain self-sufficiency.