The ‘Liep Bitda’ Saving Group in Ying Village, is helping 30 local women get access to financial savings. Liep Bitda is a term taken from the local ‘Nuer’ language, meaning ‘patience’. It is an appropriate title for the group, according to its members. ‘‘The group has really been displaying faith in its members for self-growth,’’ says Mary Nyayien Jock, the group’s Chairperson.
‘‘We are very thankful for this project. GOAL’s help has made us realise that we are not poor, but rather we need to focus on eradicating poverty. Before this, we had no chance to save or plan. This is exactly what this project has taught us,” Mary adds.
This savings group is part of a wider RECOVER programme which is supported by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Since 2016 the programme has focused on supporting long-term resilience-building, helping communities prepare for future shocks and stresses in South Sudan.
Soaring business profits bringing health benefits
One of the group’s members is 22-year-old Nyapal Wal Pal, a married mother of one. Nyapal says her new savings and profits not only improve her family’s quality of life, but also their health. “Our diets have completely changed because of my small business. I can now help provide proper nutritious food for my family, so we are now also much healthier,” she adds.
Nyapal started by taking a small loan of 5,000 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP), equivalent to a €20 loan. She then trekked for four days by foot to exchange her savings into US Dollars at the Ethiopian border. Nyapal was then able to buy basic start-up stock for her stall – sweets, soap, biscuits, hair products and food. Nyapal has since expanded her business. She’s now selling clothes, sandals and children collections. The business is currently worth about 100,000 SSP ($400).
Savings schemes crucial in breaking cycle of dependence
Without savings, the chances of these local women starting a business would have been bleak. The savings culture is very poor within the area. Most of their livelihoods are dependent on aid-assisted food drops, or from milk and maize that is produced with minimum resources. Traditionally, women in the area are often illiterate due to a lack of adequate schooling. Most are left to carry out household work from a young age. Their location – situated in mid-eastern part of the Upper Nile State, is also without proper road connections to other major towns. This means businesses are also mostly run by men, due to the remote location and the challenges that brings when importing commodities along the Sobat River from Ethiopia, which can take up to four days.
Education projects help to increase savings
A recent audit revealed that that 307,000 SSP (€1,941) has been saved by the group so far and most of the group had repaid their loans within a three-month period. While most of their small businesses consist of small corner stalls, trade is booming, and the entrepreneurs are already planning to expand their businesses.
Illiteracy is a huge problem in the community. GOAL South Sudan came up with Re-Freirean Literacy Empowerment through Community Techniques, a project also funded by FCDO under RECOVER, through a consortium effort. Registered women undergo literacy and numeracy skills training and discussions to learn more and broaden their minds. The women are then trained on small business management skills and given small business grants to start income generating activities to broaden their respective income sources. Participants are encouraged to undertake 9 months of literacy and numeracy training before joining the savings programme. GOAL has so far supported 1,758 women who got trainings on literacy and numeracy with small business grants. Around half of these women are running thriving small businesses, under the supervision and guidance of field assistants from GOAL. The RECOVER programme targets almost 23,500 vulnerable households in Upper Nile and Unity states in South Sudan. GOAL implements the project in partnership with Mercy Corps and a local NGO, UNKEA.