Story by Mariken Stolk
Louise Lagni is waiting for us with her women’s group in the village of Dotan, Benin. Five years after the last time we were here, they receive us dancing and singing. Louise’s good friend, Gisèle, who is co-leader of the women’s group, happily dances along.
Five years ago, Louise told us that nobody would listen to her when she brought something up during discussions in the village. “After following The Hunger Project’s Vision, Commitment and Action (VCA) workshops at Zakpota Epicenter, I felt much more confident about expressing my opinion,” she tells us. “And I was heard. I became more and more involved in our community’s decision-making. Since then,” she continues, “this has only gotten better.”
Over the past five years, Louise and Gisèle’s women’s group has grown considerably, now including over 70 women. “Five years ago, we just had a credit group at the joint agricultural bank,” Louise says. “Today, we can all individually take out loans, and this has given us many possibilities. We have become much more independent of our men.”
Louise explains that the women in her village now feel empowered to take bold actions and expand their trade and businesses. “Following The Hunger Project’s advice, I’ve expanded my trade considerably, going from just selling corn to opening a street shop with personal care products and clothes,” Louise says.
The women in Dotan also take care of their health and family planning. They meet twice a month and discuss any health issues they might want to share. As a health leader, Louise shares her advice with the women in her community. She advises her peers on the importance of family planning and how, by having fewer children, women can focus their time and attention on empowering activities such as entrepreneurship and education.
Looking to the future, Louise is committed to empowering her family and community. She plans to run for the village council and is planning on expanding her house for herself and her children.