”If the YMCA had not intervened I would have ended up selling myself on the street to feed my children because I no longer have my parents to support me.”
Fatumata has been living in West Point slums for 15 years. As an unemployed single mother to two young children she was struggling to make ends meet. Unable to afford school fees, her children spent their days walking the streets with her.
Then the Ebola crisis hit. Fatumata’s father passed away and her mother suffered a stroke leaving her partially paralysed and needing full time care.
Fatumata was left with no support.
‘I was sat doing nothing on the street one day and heard the YMCA staff talking about the project and I decided to ask for more information.’
Fatumata learnt how to make soap at a nearby training centre and applied for YMCA’s grant and loan scheme to help kickstart her business.
‘When I found out I was getting the loan money I was so happy. I was happy because at the time I had nothing.
‘I feel so proud of myself. This business has given me strength to go on. I feel so different now, when I wake up in the morning I can feel happy, because I am doing something, my children are happy. So I feel relaxed.’
Fatumata can now afford to send her children to school and to extra tuition classes to catch up on everything they had missed. Her son attends carpentry classes to ensure he has a skill when he is older. Her business also pays for her mother’s medication and care.
Her dream is to empower other women like her to help them change their lives for the better.
‘I encourage other women to do the same. We are women. We need to be proud of the strength that we have. We are mothers, we are the ones who give birth to men. We can be stronger than them.
‘If you’d have asked me before about my life, I would not have told you. But now I am proud to tell my story to you.’
Soap maker Fatumata Konneh sells her soap from a wheelbarrow in West Point, Liberia.