She’s a wife. She’s a mother. And she’s a farm-hand. Catherine, like most women in her situation, leads a challenging life. And if that isn’t enough, the culture of her village is that the husband owns everything. Even though the women work hard on the farms, they don’t own them with their husbands. “We depend on our husbands for virtually everything,” Catherine said.
Welcome to Catherine’s world.
Catherine lives in Benue State, Nigeria and is married with 2 children. She farms yam, cassava, and maize on the farm her husband owns. Their farm is mostly for subsistence, as they often can’t produce enough to sell or if they do, they often get low value for their yields. To provide for the family, Catherine’s husband works as a driver, but that still is not quite enough to support them. That’s why Catherine decided to take matters into her own hands and started a small business selling fried fish at the local market. She purchases frozen fish from a local community member and then fries them up for people to purchase at the market. Catherine uses this opportunity to also bring their produce from the farm to the market to sell.
Through her side business, Catherine was able to save about $70 USD. This was around the time she was due to deliver her second child, and at that point her husband did not have enough savings for the medical bills. This meant Catherine had to use her savings and capital from her fish frying business and had nothing left to go back to her business.
Lucky for Catherine, last year the village chief invited all the women to meet with Peter Ter, one of Partners Worldwide’s local partners in Nigeria and his wife Charity about starting a savings group.
The savings group has about 75 active members who pool their money together so members can borrow funds for their businesses. The group meets once a month and since they came together, Catherine has taken several loans and paid them all back on time. The monthly meetings bring the women together to bond. Catherine said, “There are closer ties now than ever before.” It has also helped bring peace and unity to her family through trainings on biblical principles that Charity teaches.
“I now understand that I don’t just go to church, but my character should be like Jesus who loved and respected others. I have learned to love and respect my husband and to live in unity with him. The Gospel has more meaning to me now,” Catherine said.
In addition to the savings group, the women were provided with beehives and education on beekeeping to produce honey to earn an income— Catherine is excited to see what her first hive will produce.
So, not only has Catherine been able to grow her business and start earning an income by production honey, she has also grown her relationship with the women in her village, her husband, and with God.