Drilling a well is only the first step in improving quality of life for a village. More must be done. When women no longer have to walk miles to get water, it frees up 50% of their time, time that they can use to work in a more productive way to earn money for their families. To make that a reality, they first need some critical education.
Women need to learn basic business skills as most don't know how to count and have never handled money before. They form savings groups of about 25 women, and we begin an education process that lasts for one year. They pool small amounts of their own money, which is then loaned to individual members.
Since they are practicing with their pooled resources, women feel a strong sense of responsibility to pay back the loan. Most already have a marketable skill — making millet cakes, peanut oil, soap, raising chickens and goats, etc. We also teach drip-farming techniques so they can grow vegetables and sell them in the local market.
At the end of a year the pooled money is returned to the members who can then apply individually for a micro-loan to expand their businesses. A micro-loan opens up the possibility for them to become mini-entrepreneurs. When this happens, women feel a strong sense of accomplishment and pride.
As these women expand their businesses and repay their loans, they don't just improve the economic circumstances of their families, they help to transform lives throughout their entire village. They become role models for their children who want to experience the same success. Most of all, they have hope for their future.
In January 2012, a Wells Bring Hope team of volunteers traveled to Niger to visit villages where wells were drilled and microfinance provided. The team included Wells Bring Hope's Nigerien-born Director of Microfinance Hadiara Diallo, documentary filmmaker Daniel Yadlosky, Founder Barbara Goldberg, Ida Harding on her second trip to Niger, and Kristin Allen. While there, they interviewed close to 100 women about how safe water and microfinance changed their lives.