Madina is a small community located in the Peje West Chiefdom, Kailahun District, Eastern Sierra Leone where Matu Mohamed, one of the members of the Nurturing Opportunities for Women program (NOW) has lived for over thirty years. Matu is a mother of four children and she works hard to see that her family is always happy. Prior to her involvement with the NOW program, she never knew how to budget and therefore never planned well for household development. Due to poor planning, she used to sell all the family’s farm products during harvesting season when prices are low in the market. Hence, the family suffered famine during the hungry season (the time before the harvest). “My family happiness was always at stake during the hungry season”, Matu stated.
Matu’s lack of knowledge regarding financial planning resulted in household conflict. Her husband was frustrated with the lack of basic necessities in the home. This conflict was exacerbated when people visited the home to ask Matu for loan repayment. Additionally, when she obtained a loan from the village savings loan scheme, she would quarrel with her husband about how to spend the money, often leaving Madina and returning until the loaned money was used up. She was taken to the village chiefs many times for not paying the debts she owed; her husband was then forced to use the savings meant for the development of their home to cover her debt. Matu’s habit of not repaying loans diminished the respect she had in the community and caused constant trouble between her and her creditors.
Mattu realized she wanted to make a change in her life when she learned about goal setting in the NOW program. She chose a goal of starting a business and she decided to start planning for a better life using the tools of saving, budgeting, and managing the affairs of the home. She also decided to try to communicate well with her husband; as she believes effective marital communication is the bedrock for household development. She started inviting her husband to every family session of the NOW program. She shared her NOW workbook with her husband (especially the communication and savings pages) and started to communicate well with her children about household unity. Also, she started to minimize taking loans. “Deviating from my previous deeds and putting the learning into practice has made me an agent of change,” Matu Mohamed said.
At first, the decisions to abstain from loans, reserve farm products to sell when prices are high, and to save money every month were difficult for Matu. She had to cut back her spending on superfluous food items and stylish clothes. Matu challenged herself to overcome the difficulties and gradually started implementing the changes taught in the NOW program, such as limiting loans and reducing food waste in the home. Matu worked together with her husband and family to endure the hardships in order to receive the benefit.
The financial management changes Mattu made helped her to become self-reliant and have peace in her home. Her children are now attending school while she and her husband are working as one to develop the household. She now has money saved to live on during the hungry season and can reserve her palm oil until the price is high in the market. The family enjoys unity and great respect as everyone’s opinion is considered in the home. Matu now saves on her own without obtaining loans. There is wellbeing in the home as the family have enough to eat because she now manages the home properly. Mohamed Amara II said, “The NOW learning has made my wife do things that she never did before. She has respect for me and she is now a successful business woman.”