We have many stories to tell about the impact that our various information and education programmes have had on people's lives. In this section you can read the stories of some of the women who have attended our learning circles in the north of Sierra Leone. We have changed people's names to protect their privacy.
Mary lives just outside Makeni. She was married very young and now has four children. She joined one of our learning circles and learned to read and write. This gave her the confidence to enrolled on a course and learn tailoring so that she could be better able to support her family.
Baby is a petty trader. Before she joined the learning circle in her village she couldn’t write her name. She now has a stall in the village and knows what items to buy in the market and how much profit they will make for her. Before she couldn’t even count. When Baby goes to market, she prepares a list of things to buy so that she doesn’t forget something. She also reads and notes down the vehicle number just in case she forgets her goods when returning from the market. Baby also knows how to report problems to the police, and is not frightened to do so.
Kadiatu is proud to have paid her local tax: she is seen here holding up the receipt. “I now understand what tax is for,” she says, “it’s to help the development of my country”. Kadiatu also also understands about voting and will vote in future elections. “Before I joined the circle,” she said, “my husband used to tell me how to vote.”
Isatu collects water rates for the local water company, Salwaco. Her husband asked her to do the work because he couldn’t read. Isatu goes from house to house and collects 2,000 leones from each. She writes the names of those who pay and keeps the receipts. Any balance that is left after Salwaco is paid (25,000 leones per month for the village as a whole) is used for micro-credits, which Isatu is also organising.
Fatu knows her rights. She can spell her name, and other words — she proves this by spelling the word “participant”. “People cannot take advantage of me anymore”, she says. When Fatu goes into Makeni she can read the street names and find house numbers. She has started teaching her husband the alphabet.
Memuna is a Traditional Birth Attendant, seen here the Register for her village. Memuna is now able to keep a record of the children born in the village. She can write the mothers’ and babies’ names, and she knows from the record which are the boy children and which are the girl children.
Posseh said that before joining the circle she didn’t know how to take proper care of her children. She often left them alone without supervision. Now she takes much better care of them. Moreover, Posseh understands what her children are studying at school, and she regularly goes through their exercise books to check how they are getting on.
Mabinty was married young by her parents and now has several children, despite her young age. “I would not have got married,” she said, “if I had had an education”. She vows that her daughters will not be married young and, unlike her, they will go to school.
Jatu told us how her boy friend had abandoned her for another woman because she could not read and write. This is why she joined the learning circle. She is determined to make something of her life, and sees education as the key.
Aminata said she had seen the importance of learning: she knows how to sell things and give change; she can check whether a particular purchase will make a profit. And she now knows how to clean the house and look after her husband, and she understands what HIV/AIDS is and how it is caught.
When Margaret's husband died she decided that she would not go back to his family because she was now educated. This is highly unusual in Temne culture. Margaret has been teaching her four year old grand daughter the alphabet. And to prove it, the girl stood up at one meeting and recited the alphabet from memory - and then spelt out her name!
At one meeting we held in Makeni four women stood up in succession and told us how the education had helped them in their marriages. They said that they were now much better at listening to their husbands and their children, and they could communicate their thoughts more clearly. This had brought more peace to their households.
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