Edna Vertilmé’s community is up the mountain from Marigo, along a rutted, gravel road. Fonkoze is the only institution where people from her community can access credit and other financial services.Otherwise, they have to turn to friends, family, and neighbors for loans. But those kinds of transactions are not without cost.
Edna says, “If you ask someone to borrow money, you have to give them something in return. If a woman asks a man for money, usually, he expects her to sleep with him. I know a lot of women who have done that. Fonkoze is our only resource for loans, and once we join, we don’t need to ask other people for money.”
The region where Edna lives was where Fonkoze established one of its first branches after it was founded in 1994—first in Jakmel, then a closer one, in Marigo. Some of the women in Edna’s community have been Fonkoze clients for 20 years.
Edna, 35 years old, has been a Fonkoze client since 2011. Back then, she, her husband, and her two children were living in her mother-in-law’s house, because they could not afford a home of their own. They did what they could to get by. Edna used to sell products in the market, and Verma, her husband, drives a motorcycle taxi.
Once she took out her loan, she was able to expand her business. She now sells plantains, coffee, passion fruit, rice, spaghetti, and other food products. Eventually, they saved enough money to construct their own home; they bought a pig, goats, and chickens. As Edna’s business earns more money, she puts a little aside so that they can continue to improve and complete their house and so that she has money for school fees and uniforms.
“Fonkoze has done so much for me,” Edna says. Verma agrees: “Even if, one day, my motorcycle does not bring in very much money, her commerce guarantees that between the two of us, we always have an income. Fonkoze helps women so that they don’t have to rely on other people for loans.