THE EMPOWERING SPIRIT OF SHADIATU
PUBLISHED JANUARY 30, 2023
, Shadiatu Manyeh, a 22-year-old student from Kenema, has managed to shatter the glass ceiling and become a beacon of hope for young girls in her community. Through her determination, resourcefulness and the intervention of the More Than a Woman project, she has not only achieved her own dreams of getting an education, but she is now a role model who influences other young girls to pursue their own aspirations, despite the circumstances they find themselves.
Growing up in a society that marginalized women and girls, a woman was not permitted and encouraged to aspire for a professional career outside marriage. Young girls dropped out of school after acquiring a basic education if they were privileged to have any education at all and were later married off before the age of 18. Shadiatu however from an early age was determined not to suffer this fate as she had dreams of pursuing an education to the fullest of her personal abilities. She believed a young girl could be more than a tool for society.
Unfortunately, in 2019, despite her ambitions, Shadiatu did not attain the necessary entry requirements to pursue a tertiary education after writing her final senior secondary school examinations and was faced with what she always feared, dropping out of school. Since her parents could not afford to pay the cost for remedial sessions and a re-sit of the examinations, Shadiatu determination drove her to start a small food selling business. This venture was however unsuccessful and she was unable to raise the necessary money to pursue her education.
In 2019, the More Than a Woman project implemented by SEND Sierra Leone and funded by Irish Aid identified hundreds of young girls within the Kenema district who faced challenges in been able to create sustainable livelihoods and contribute their voices to issues of governance and politics within their communities. The project introduced these young women to the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) model which creates a platform for women to mobilize resources and have access to finance on their own. Understanding what this meant for her ambitions, Shadiatu joined the Wabitor VSLA, a savings group that received support from the project.
To ensure young women like Shadiatu developed entrepreneurial and effective business management competencies, the project provided Competency-based Economies through the Formation of Entrepreneurs (CEFE) and VSLA education. These training sessions provided the young women with knowledge on sound business practices, booking and marketing strategies. It also encouraged the cultivation of a culture of savings and financial prudence as a way to building financial independence. Shadiatu used this knowledge to revive her fast-food business as a means of earning an income which would be saved in the VSLA. After 12 months of saving, judiciously, Shadiatu received Le 1,500, the equivalent of $150 at the time as her annual savings contribution. Focused on her ambition, she used her savings to pay for the fees to take the final secondary examination and invested into the expansion of her food her business to enable her earn more income to increase her weekly saving contribution.
With a tertiary education on the horizon and a thriving business, Shadiatu in 2020 increased her weekly savings from Le 10 to Le 50 to ensure she had enough money saved up when it was time to gain admission into the university of her dreams. Later that year, Shadiatu was accepted into the Eastern Technical University and with her yearly savings of Le 3,500 was able to cater for her tuition fees and other related expenses.
Enrolled in the University, Shadiatu is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Banking and Finance and is filled with even more ambition to graduate as one of the highest performers. She combines her academics with her food business, something she believes gives her enthusiasm to succeed even more. With a shared profit structure in her food business, she is able to contribute her weekly savings judiciously in the Wabitor VSLA and have money for her upkeep in the university.
Overcoming the challenges of acquiring an education in the face of multi-dimensional marginalization suffered by women in Sierra Leone is a daunting task. However, Shadiatu Manyeh, a 22-year-old student from Kenema, has managed to shatter the glass ceiling and become a beacon of hope for young girls in her community. Through her determination, resourcefulness and the intervention of the More Than a Woman project, she has not only achieved her own dreams of getting an education, but she is now a role model who influences other young girls to pursue their own aspirations, despite the circumstances they find themselves