Ummi Yusuf has 11 children. Together, she and her husband, who she married when she was 18, worked hard to support them. Things changed for their family when he became ill and eventually paralyzed. Ummi was left with the burden of providing for everyone. The income she made styling hair and selling local snacks wasn't enough.
In 2016, the ward where Ummi lives, in Gombe, Nigeria, was selected to be part of the SAQIP project. Implemented by Pact and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, SAQIP is working to improve maternal, neonatal and child health outcomes in northeast Nigeria, where maternal and child mortality rates are especially high. One way Pact is supporting mothers to get adequate care is by helping them to boost their incomes so they can afford health care costs. Local officials asked Ummi if she would help support the project by mobilizing women to take part in WORTH Mothers Groups.
WORTH is Pact’s award-winning micro-banking program that empowers women to lift themselves and each other out of poverty. The SAQIP WORTH model targets women of child-bearing age, bringing them together in groups of about 25-30 to save money, access credit, gain skills and start small businesses.
With support from SAQIP and local partner Christian Health Association of Nigeria, Ummi helped establish the Na Gari Nakowa Mothers Group, where she learned to read and write.
“Before SAQIP, I could not read and write in Hausa. Now I can,” Ummi says. “I cannot wait to learn how to read and write in English.”
Ummi soon became the chairperson of the group. Like other members, she made weekly mandatory and voluntary contributions and saved enough money to qualify for a loan. The first loan she took was for about $30, which she used to start a small food business from her home. She made and sold local delicacies, using a portion of her profits to repay the loan. Seeing her business thrive, she took another loan to expand her enterprise.
As her business grew, Ummi hired staff. She now employs seven people and makes a healthy profit each month. Without assistance, Ummi can now meet her family’s needs. She pays school fees for 11 children and covers her husband’s physiotherapy sessions. He is making much progress.
Ummi also advocates for maternal and neonatal health causes in her community by educating women who are not members of her mothers group on the importance of proper health care.
“In my days, women were encouraged to deliver their babies in hospitals, and husbands took very good care of their wives after childbirth,” Ummi says. Now, she says, too many women don't get the health services they need.
She often talks to mothers-in-law about allowing their daughters-in-law to get antenatal care and deliver in a health facility.
Ummi says all of this was made possible by skills and knowledge she gained through her mothers group.
Learn more about Ummi here.