Janèt Dèval, a client of Fonkoze, a microcredit institution in Haiti, is one of the 66.6 million poorest clients reached. Janèt has been a credit client for more than two years and comes regularly to all meetings. She has also been a part of every literacy program available and is about to start the newest module on developing business skills. Not only could she not read or write when she started, but she has had an extra challenge: Janèt has only a fraction of her hearing due to an injury when she was 20 years old.
My husband didn’t want me to send my five children to school because his parents didn’t send him to school. From the beginning, he said he would not pay and he has never given even one goud, but I always knew it was important. For a long time I have gone to Port-au-Prince to buy goods to sell in Hinche, and I put all my money into paying for school for my children.
When I found out that Fonkoze gave literacy classes for market women, I was so happy. I never went to school even one day. I didn’t know anything about school. I started right away with basic literacy and I have tried to never miss a class.
I couldn’t write my name and I didn’t understand anything, but I kept going even when my husband got angry. My kids pushed me and encouraged me and they helped me practice my letters. The monitor, Christa, told me to keep writing every day even when I didn’t understand.
I can write my name now, and I write it everywhere. Imagine, I used to go to Port-au-Prince to buy and I couldn’t read the bags and I felt lost. I couldn’t keep track of what I bought. The drivers sometimes would take my boxes off the truck and give them to someone else, but I didn’t know until I got all the way home. Now, I can’t lose anything. Now I write my name on every box and I know what I buy.
I finished Alfa Baz and Alfa Pos and then I went to the Health Program, too. I still don’t know many things, so I want to keep going. I take my notebook to my school and I write in it because one day I hope to read and understand everything. I bought two books in the market and my kids help me read them.
I work hard in the market so that I can repay my loans, keep going to school and so that my kids have that chance, too. If my parents would have sent me to school, I would have thrown a party for them to say thank you.
We close this report with the story of Susan Wangui of Kenya, a story of adversity and hope. Susan grew up in a poor, rural area of Kenya. She was the only one of her siblings to attend school but was forced to drop out after fourth grade when her family could no longer afford the school fees. Her parents kicked her out when she became pregnant at 17. Hoping to find work, Susan and her infant son moved to Nairobi, where she married and had a daughter. Her husband left her when they learned she was HIV-positive. Unable to find work and with no means to support her two small children, Susan ended up in prostitution.
Susan learned about Jamii Bora, a Nairobi-based microfinance institution, from neighbors in her slum. She completed their business training, which improved her business skills and gave her the confidence to begin her clothes mending and sales business. The microfinance services enabled her to quit prostitution and move her family from a shack in their crime- and disease-ridden slum into a safer house.
Susan sometimes struggles to pay the higher rent and occasionally must skip meals, but feels her children’s safety justifies the difficulties. Their house has a floor, running water, a waterproof roof and locking door – all luxuries they did not have previously.
With each increasing loan, Susan buys more raw materials in bulk at lower costs, thus increasing her business’s profitability. She is convinced she would not be alive without Jamii Bora’s medical insurance and access to HIV medication, and can’t imagine what would become of her children, as there is no one else to care for them. Susan has savings for the first time and is striving to earn enough to ensure her children’s educations so they can break free from the chains of poverty.