The Village Agent supporting thousands of women

“I want to help women to escape poverty."

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Written by Emma Langbridge

Cécile Sekongo Silue is a Village Agent working in Korhogo in the North of Ivory Coast. She alone supports approximately 4,500 women through 150 different groups. She appears completely unphased at supporting such a large group of people. Many of those groups are supported through CARE’s Women in Enterprise programme, funded by H&M Foundation. She is a mother of six children, the youngest of whom is twelve years.

“I help the women of Korhogo in many different ways. Initially, I support the women to set up their own Village Savings & Loans Associations. These are savings groups, based on CARE’s model, which enable members to learn how to save money, as well as develop leadership and other life skills. Once the groups are up and running, I help with other training, such as financial literacy and life skills training. My job is to help women to become autonomous.

As well as working directly supporting the women, I also work as a ‘go-between’ for them with micro finance institutions. I think before CARE formed a partnership with the microfinance institutions here, they wouldn’t take the women seriously. They would speak to the women in a patronising tone and look down on them. They didn’t see them as potential customers. Now we have shown the financial institutions that women are very capable of taking out and repaying a loan. Microfinance isn’t for every woman, but for many, it has enabled them to grow their businesses.

I am also always looking to develop new networks and opportunities for all my groups. So, for example, if I had a group working in agriculture, I might link them with another farming group if it helped them to expand or reach new markets. I also seek out new training opportunities for women which might teach them how to use a new piece of equipment or learn a new production technique that will help them to advance their businesses.   I also believe in sustainably supporting women, that’s why I also train women to become trainers themselves.

I also spend time advocating for the women with local stakeholders, I work with the local authority and show them how impactful additional funding for women can be. I show them that supporting women to become economically independent enables them to not only support their own families, but how they can also have an impact in their wider community. I also work with the Village Chiefs to show them the added value that the women can bring.

It’s a very intense job and I also support women emotionally as they develop and grow. I am always with women! I want to help these women to escape poverty.”

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