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Women Crucial to Rebuilding Liberia after Ebola

Published 02/22/2016 by Global Communities

Nancy is determined to succeed, despite obstacles she’s faced.

The devastating Ebola outbreak led to thousands of deaths in Liberia and a deterioration of the country’s economy.

When the Ebola epidemic began in West Africa, Project Concern International (PCI) leveraged its existing programming in Liberia to address the largest outbreak ever. We were already on the ground, with established Women Empowered (WE) groups that had deep ties and trust within their communities.

PCI’s WE initiative helps marginalized women form self-managed savings groups to develop sustainable businesses and social empowerment. The initiative helps ensure that group members have the tools and resources needed to create a better life.

liberia community

After joining a WE group in Nimba County, Liberia, Nancy obtained a small loan to buy raw fish. To make a profit, she cooks the fish and sells them in the door of her storefront.

She explained that her future plan is to fill her store with a wide variety of products. Although her store may be small now, she has big plans to grow her business.

Nancy is being trained on small business management, budgeting and leadership skills. She meets regularly with her WE group to discuss social issues, savings and new income-generating approaches.

In Liberia, 47 WE groups with over 752 members have saved more than $7,800 and issued more than $11,700 in loans collectively.

WE groups often use their social savings to support affected group members. The savings groups help provide a safety net to increase resilience during critical time of need.

During the height of the Ebola epidemic, many WE group members took an unofficial lead role in the fight. They jumped into action, helped increase awareness of Ebola and united their communities when the crisis affected their villages.

Many WE groups cared for community members in quarantine, by providing critical resources such as food, water or firewood. Three WE groups purchased and donated bleach, chlorine and hand-washing buckets.

we meeting liberia group

In Nancy’s WE group meeting, a woman shared that during the Ebola crisis she didn’t have the money to transport her children. As a group, the women rallied together and supported her. They provided the money she needed to bring her children home from a neighboring village. The WE group also saved enough money to put new doors on the local school building and is investing in the future of their children.

During the meeting, Makarnfee, PCI’s WE program coordinator, asked for a group member to volunteer but didn’t explain the task.

Nancy volunteered and Makarnfee asked her to try to break a small group of sticks. Nancy tried but wasn’t able to break them.

Makarnfee then took the sticks, pulled one stick out and broke it easily.

She then said to the group, “Just like these sticks, see how together you are strong. You cannot be broken.”

Many group members also spoke about the importance of their friendship with each other. Before the group was created, they shared that they didn’t have friends and today they have a strong support system.

It’s been a difficult journey of recovery for Liberia, and every step of the way, many women have supported each other and stood together for the future of their country.

Photos and story by: Jennifer Simpson, Technical Advisor, Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation, PCI