Money was always tight for Florence Engman’s family.
She and her husband had four children, and he was the sole breadwinner. It was often a stretch to feed everyone on her husband’s income. So when Florence heard about a WORTH group forming in her area, an impoverished community in Bayelsa State’s Southern Ijaw, she decided to join.
Pact uses its WORTH model all over the world to help women lift themselves and each other out of poverty. In groups of about 25, members come together to start their own micro bank. They make small weekly savings deposits, and when groups’ funds grow large enough, members may begin taking loans, which they use to start small businesses. WORTH also includes training in literacy, numeracy and entrepreneurship. Pact began WORTH in Nigeria in partnership with Chevron as part of the PROMOT II project, which worked to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission. Many women cited financial barriers as the reason they weren’t seeking health care during pregnancy, so Pact and Chevron decided to add WORTH groups to PROMOT as a way to boost women’s incomes.
Florence joined WORTH in October 2016. She’d never earned money of her own, but through WORTH, she learned the basics of running a micro business, as well as how to make household products including soap and hot balm. She took a loan from her group to produce her first batches, and slowly, her business grew. Finally, it wasn’t such a stretch to feed her family.
Then tragedy struck. In March 2017, Florence’s husband suddenly died. Now she was her family’s sole breadwinner. Her small soap business was all that stood between her children and hunger. Her WORTH group rallied around her.
More than ever, Florence needed to expand her business, but she worried about taking another loan after paying back the first one. She feared her business was too small. But with coaching and encouragement from her group’s Empowerment Worker, she decided she could do it.
“When we meet for the classes, I teach them from the books that Pact gave us,” the Empowerment Worker explains. “We open the books and I explain to them one or two things that they don’t know. Words that I don’t know they teach me, and we teach each other.”
For Florence, who also learned to read and write through WORTH, it has made all the difference.
“If I had not learned these things, I don’t know where I would have started from with my children now that my husband is gone,” she says. “But as they taught us these things, I am managing with my children. I save little, little money. If they are sick I can take them to the hospital with the money I make from my trade.”
Today, Florence and her children are hopeful about the future.