Amina Saidu Mohammed, a 15-year-old, is one of the 735 adolescents enrolled in Mercy Corps’ safe spaces in Kwaya Kusar LGA. Out of the 822 Safe Spaces that I-SING initiated at south Borno, Gombe and Maiduguri, 36 were in Amina’s community with each comprising of 20 adolescents who meet on a weekly basis to discuss and practice life skills including those related to sexual and reproductive health, financial literacy and savings, and building the self-confidence of adolescents. Experienced mentors and coordinators, overseeing the Safe Spaces, incorporate psychosocial support in the curriculum activities of the Safe Spaces. Mentors share a strong bond with the adolescents and even engage in informal counselling and discussions to help adolescents tackle their everyday challenges.
Amina joined the Safe Space struggling with the fear of the unknown. She used to speculate and worry about possible attacks from armed groups, in particular the group known as Boko Haram. Over the last year, and as part of her participation in the Safe Spaces, Amina has come a long way in overcoming her fears and built a social network of new friends. The I-SING programme has helped provide stability and a sense of normalcy for Amina.
In her Safe Space group, Amina was encouraged to start saving via home banking. Amina is using this and other lessons on financial education she has received in her Safe Space, to not only save money, but also to start earning money for herself. With her savings, Amina started selling kunu (a local drink) in her community to generate an income which she can save.
Acquiring productive assets is a key part of what I-SING teaches adolescents in the Safe Spaces. As a result of this, Amina used her profits from selling kunu to buy two goats. These are a great productive asset, as she can breed them and sell the additional goats. This helps to make her more financially independent.
“Thanks to the financial education I gained at my I-SING Safe Space, I learned how to not just save money but also control spending. I saved 5,000 Naira from selling kunu and I bought goats with it”
Amina’s journey hasn’t always been smooth. Her first days at the Safe Space were tough because previously she had never been exposed to such settings. But Amina persevered. “A lot has changed in my life since I joined the Safe Space,” she shared while adding “I regained my self-esteem. I finally understand how to live with people around me and ways to communicate with them”.
In particular, Amina felt strongly connected with her mentor who guided and supported her journey. In this process, Amina’s mother continued to help her understand the value of the knowledge that she gained at the Safe Space by asking her more questions related to it and giving her inputs on how to apply this learning in her everyday life.
When asked about her key take-away from the Safe Space, she immediately replied that “among all the curriculum activities of the Safe Space, financial literacy had the greatest impact on me. I never knew how to save money and buy things for myself. I used to ask my parents to buy me many things and often got disappointed when they could not meet my expectations. But I-SING has brought me all of these things through its mentorship and guidance. I can now save money and take care of myself even support my parents”.
One day, Amina hopes to become a Safe-Space mentor herself. She continues to advise her friends to stick to and practice all that they learned in the Safe Space. Finally, Amina shared that “they told me European Union funded this program. Although we don’t know them, we love them and we are deeply thanking them.”