by Megan Sullivan, Country Director
As the a nation that boasts the first democratically elected female president in all of Africa – it is no surprise that Liberia is full of smart, strong women eager to work hard and make a difference. However, despite Ma Ellen’s success, women in Liberia have a long road to equality. Daily life for all women and girls in the impoverished post war country presents a multitude of challenges. The women of the Malaya organization in the Bong Mines area of the interior are tackling these challenges by supporting each other.
Malaya means “Help Me” in the Kissi dialect, and it was founded in 2007 by Finda Francis after observing how the women in this once flourishing community were suffering after the war. Many are war widows struggling to support their families; others still are too entrenched in poverty to meet their daily needs. Finda gathered the women of the town and encouraged them to come together and create a “susu” system. The women pooled the small funds that they had and gave it to the one most in need. Every Sunday since that day, all of the women have again contributed money to give to one in need. The benefits are felt throughout the community, hospital bills are paid, and children are in school. And the support has allowed many women and their families to begin a small farm or purchase needed supplies to expand an existing venture, thus providing a hand up to sustaining their family's needs through a reliable source of income.
After implementing a successful microloan initiative, Finda and her organization Malaya developed a community farm. Over 72 community members are actively involved in the cooperative farm by cultivating a variety of crops and a few acres here and there, and then selling the harvest together at the market. Bong Mines currently has a surplus of Liberian rice thanks to the hard work of Malaya. They also grow corn, beans, cassava, potato greens, bitterball, okra, and much more. Some of the women also make and sell charcoal. When faced with hardship, the women of Malaya came together and through cooperation and hard work, they are creating a better future for their children!
As one member told me, “Malaya helped to move tears from my face. I was in deep suffering...now we are standing on our feet ‘small small.’”
In keeping with our commitment to sustainability and local empowerment, The Niapele Project will partner with the Malaya organization for the School Nutrition Initiative. By purchasing food supplies from the co-op, we ensure that the impact of a donated dollar goes a long way in improving livelihoods in Liberia. Malaya’s crops offer many nutritious local ingredients for the students at the CAMES school in Monrovia, and by collaborating with Malaya to purchase these supplies, each meal’s benefits extends even further throughout Liberia. Using this approach, The Niapele Project can improve the lives of the children at CAMES AND the community of Bong Mines with every meal!