Rebuilding Social Connections
Haoua Salgo’s story is a common one in rural Burkina Faso. She was isolated from her community and unable to feed herself or her family. With Trickle Up’s support, Haoua set out on a journey where she found nourishment both for her body and her sense of self. Delving below the surface to understand the social factors that impacted her food security, Trickle Up helped Haoua reconnect with her community and find the support she needed to face her challenges through her savings group. Empowering women by connecting them in groups ensures that they will build a support network and a group of friends to help in hard times and applaud their success in good times.
Prior to selection for the Trickle Up program, Haoua Salgo sold peanuts. She also gathered and sold gravel to construction companies, a common income-generating activity in the area. Despite working tirelessly, these activities were barely sufficient to support and feed her six children. They often picked wild fruit and plants in order to survive.
“It was a desperate situation and we suffered often,” Haoua reflects.
We learned that complex social mores had trapped Haoua in a “no win” position regarding her family’s food security. Like many women who live in extreme poverty, her position as a female made her the responsible party for her family’s needs while diminishing her actual capacity to meet those needs. Her community relationships had also faltered.
Haoua’s difficulties began at age 17 when she was forced into a marriage with a much older man. Her husband’s age prevented him from performing manual labor to meet his family’s needs. Pride led him to value community appearances as the top priority. Even during the most difficult times, he forbid Haoua from asking for help from family or neighbors. Though resourceful, Haoua couldn’t execute any of her income-generating ideas. Her husband viewed her initiative as an insult and she feared his retaliation.
When Trickle Up met Haoua, her husband had already passed away, but this pattern of poverty and isolation had perpetuated. Haoua had not learned the skills necessary to provide for her entire family alone. In addition, the desire to save face had in essence cut the family off from the support of the community. Haoua was reluctant to make social connections: she feared embarrassment from visiting neighbors who would assume she was merely asking for food.
At the start of the program, Haoua noted an immediate improvement in her financial situation with the increased revenue her business activities generated. However, she approached this with skepticism, having endured many setbacks in her life. After the business training, Haoua used her seed capital to buy a goat and 60kg of peanuts. With the profits from selling peanuts, she diversified her family’s diet, buying nutritious foods that she couldn’t afford before.
Haoua’s confidence is growing but she continues to be cautious in her spending, ensuring her business is fully established before making larger investments. She looks forward to undertaking other activities once she has saved more. Vegetable production and selling coffee are at the top of her list. Having been in charge of her family’s health, education, and food for many years, she is finally able to save money too. Haoua values education as a pathway to increased confidence and opportunity for her children and an important investment with long-term rewards. Accordingly, she applied some of her initial grant to her children’s schooling.
The connections Haoua made with her savings group “sisters” have been just as critical to her success as her businesses. The women of the savings group provide a sounding board for each other’s concerns and have truly bonded in just a few months. At local ceremonies, they participate together and have more credibility to integrate themselves in the community. As mutual trust has increased within the group, Haoua’s status in the community has also increased. She reports increased confidence and respect in the community – a huge change from her difficult social position before.
Today, Haoua Salgo is more confident about the future and no longer views life so skeptically.
For the future, Haoua wishes for a better life for her children. With three sons and three daughters, she prays that her children can grow up in circumstances much improved from her own life. She is thankful from the support she has received from Trickle Up, from her coach, and her fellow savings group members. She assures us that we will only witness more progress in the months to come: something to look forward to indeed.
Haoua Salgo of Gourga, Yatenga, Burkina Faso
Confident, connected, optimistic