Elizabeth Nyakuel is a 59-year old widow benefitting from the support an EU PROACT project, implemented by the International Rescue Committee. When she speaks about the project, Elizabeth is still stunned to realise how much "money was able to get in her hands to improve her life".
As Elizabeth recalls, "before the IRC PROACT project, I had no means to raise my three grandchildren who are under five, left behind by my late daughter who died from a snake bite in May 2015 while she was looking for wild food in the bush. We had to survive solely on wild leaves, roots and tubers which I collected from the swamps and forests. I was suffering severely from a shortage of food and went for weeks without any proper meals because I always had to put the lives of my grandchildren first.
In 2016, the staff of the PROACT project and the Ganyiel Payam local authority came and told us about the possibility for targeted vulnerable households, such as mine, to form village savings and loans associations (VSLA), also providing a way to get seeds for farming. Together with other women in my village, we then decided to form a VSLA group of 24 women and our names were registered thanks to the support of the PROACT project.
Thanks to the business skills training we received, I was motivated to start saving money and create a small business. I took a loan of 16,000 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) from the group and bought a bag of sugar, 20 litres of cooking oil, ten packets of table salt, and 20 kilos of wheat flour from Ganyliel.
After saving under the VSLA for eight months in 2017, I was able to raise 15,000 SSP (approximately 110 USD), and I could then expand my business by adding more items and renting a small shop in the village centre. I also bought more food from the market, clothing for my grandchildren, and a female goat which I am now keeping, which I hope will multiply in the future.
The VSLA has really helped vulnerable women like me to have a safety net and be strong enough to face hardships, especially during periods of drought and hunger, since we can use our savings to survive with our families. I love my VSLA group because it has helped me spend time with other people and now I do not worry too much, as we speak about our challenges and share experiences together."