The women have collectively formed themselves into an association they call, ‘Amulemba’a Mende word literally meaning ‘togetherness’. Amulemba is an association of vulnerable women determined and committed to fighting poverty through the means made available to them by their sister, Mrs. Josephine Marah. According to Mrs. Marah, the project focuses on building the capacity of the women to support their husbands in their homes noting, “Women all over have the burden of caring for their husbands and their children; a responsibility they are always ready to shoulder.”
The project involves the distribution of groundnuts seeds to women farmers. At the end of each planting season, each beneficiary is expected to return a bag or two from the yield to be distributed to other groups of women farmers.
Mariama Johnny a beneficiary told this reporter that the project which has been in process for the past five years “has given us renewed hope and confidence in our homes,” she admitted. Mrs. Marah said it is aimed at pulling poverty out of the women and renewing their self dignity and hope. She said the project will in the coming years be extended to several other communities in Moyamba district and even beyond.
The AGM kicked off with a meeting of hundred women group leaders the outcome of which was built on during the plenary sessions on Saturday, 14th January 2017. A number of issues covering successes and challenges came up during the preliminary discussion which informed the final resolution of the Amulemba 2017 AGM. The resolution captured all the challenges to include: That a microfinance scheme to be introduced in the association for which some members with business acumen have already expressed interest; that the groundnuts seeds distribution be support with some amount of finance backing to aid labour; and that there was need for extension service from the Ministry of Agriculture to train the women farmers on weather-fitness for groundnut cultivation.
Earlier prior to the plenary meeting, Dr. Kaifala Marah told the gathering that he and his wife are directly targeting women because, according to him, when you empower the woman, you empower the home and by extension you have empowered the husband and went on to describe women as “better home managers than men.”
Putting on his developmental lens, he maintained that because of the population of women in the country which has exceeded over 50%, “if you focus your development on women it means you have focused on the country’s development move by over 50%.” He therefore encouraged the women to put additional efforts in honesty and sincerity to ensure the success of the project and to ensure it reaches to more women in the district and even beyond. He assured them of his “unwavering support” at all times since according to him, “I love my wife and I will support her strongly in whatever socio-development project she undertakes that aims at pulling poverty out of our people,” Governor Dr. Kaifala Marah stated.
During plenary, the Amulemba Association heard experience talks from two of the counterparts from Koinadugu District, who are benefitting from a Dr. Kaifala Marah microfinance scheme he has named, ‘Musu Bankii’. This microfinance scheme which started in December 2015 with eight groups of 20 women each in Sembgeh and Wara Wara Yagala chiefdoms has extended to five other chiefdoms making a total of seven chiefdoms in Koinadugu District and targeting 600 women.
Madam Yeabu Mansaray, chairlady for one of Wara Wara Yagala groups informed her colleagues about how Dr. Marah’s microfinance initiative has changed the lives of members of her group.
“We no longer eager to pay our children’s school fees at the end of the year since 2015. Apart from the fact that our individual businesses are growing, we also have security in the general savings we are making with the Community Bank in Kabala. We now have access to loan facility because we have the guarantee of paying,” she stated and encouraged her folks to take both the agriculture project and the microfinance project seriously.
The Coordinator of the Musu Bankii Microfinance project in Koinadugu District, Lansana Porreh Kamara said the scheme has grown exponentially but that they will not rest until they cover the entire Koinadugu District.
An observer at the Amulemba AGM, a seasoned economist and politician commented that Dr. and Mrs. Marah are setting a very fine example on how grassroot poverty can be addressed, using the model of self involvement. “The fact that you having over 500 rural women discussing their own problems and finding ways of addressing them suggests that as a leader, Dr. Kaifala Marah can reach out to everyone before he takes decision on matters that hinge on the survival of his people,” The Observer who spoke on anonymity stated.