Aminata Diarra (Mali)

Improving on the “Old Way”.

If not for her sister-in-law, a woman who voluntarily organizes village women in savings and loan groups, Aminata Diarra may not have found her way into group banking. “She convinced me to try it,” nods the 54-year-old widow and mother. “Otherwise, I might not have done it.”

As a matter of fact, Aminata, now a “replicator” herself in Freedom from Hunger’s Saving for Change program, does the same: she shares information about the program and helps women form their own groups. “And now, if another woman asks me about the group, I tell her it’s a good thing. It’s helped us. She should try it and just see for herself.”

Animata takes us on a tour of her village in Mali, West Africa.Aminata wears a traditional African dress, with colorful geometrics of mango and cream, and a red scarf draped over her head. She seems very shy, even though the group has chosen her as a woman who can speak her mind. She reaches up to grasp the edge of her scarf, lift it off her head, and re-drape it again and again throughout the interview.

Prior to Saving for Change—brought to Dio Garé in 2005 by partner nongovernmental organization TONUS—the women often received lump sums of money collectively through tontines, an indigenous tradition of a savings club to which each member contributes the same amount each week and receives the pot at some point in time. However, one could pay into the tontine and never get the pot in return; according to Aminata, the new, more formal way “just works better than the old way.”

So in 2007, she decided to give it a try, and is able to save enough money to send her children to school. All of her children—ages 12 to 24—have been inflicted with malaria, and like everybody else suffer months of hunger, every year, until the crops come in.

Animata's Savings Group in Mali, West AfricaAminata’s eyes twinkle as though only by magic has she managed so well to feed, clothe, shelter and educate her children without the support of a husband. “What I hope for my children, and what I really expect now, is for them to be able to face their hunger. To learn to fend for themselves. I wish them all to grow up well, and for the girls to get married.”

“When my daughters get married,” she smiles, “I will buy them material for their weddings.”

Aminata is one of the millions of women Freedom from Hunger serves—women who keep proving the power of money and education in the hands of a mother. “What I hope for my children, and what I really expect now, is for them to be able to face their hunger. To learn to fend for themselves.”