Don’t Stop Now! Sonia’s story

“The contact with the Young Entrepreneur’s programme has been an eye-opener — I was able to realise my potential of becoming an entrepreneur and financially independent.” As part of our autumn Don’t Stop Now! Appeal, read about one young woman from Burundi who is receiving training and support from our partner New Generation. Amos’ On Her Terms Lead Karin Joseph writes.

Sonia is 23 years-old and sells bananas, sweet potatoes and beans in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. She is a participant in New Generation Burundi’s Young Entrepreneur’s programme in which a group of young people aged 15-25 receive regular life skills and business training followed up with a loan to set up their first enterprise.

After encountering personal problems, Sonia decided to learn about business, joined the training programme and was given a loan from New Generation. She is putting into practice what she’s learnt during her training, and is now able to manage her business in a better way.

Young women in Burundi holding a large charity cheque.

Young women in the entrepreneurship programme receive weekly training and support in life skills, before beginning to plan their businesses and receiving start-up loans from New Generation.

“The contact with the Young Entrepreneur’s programme has been an eye-opener — I was able to realise my potential of becoming an entrepreneur and financially independent,” says Sonia. “The training I received at New Generation has helped me in preparing and thinking about my future. I have already made some progress thanks to the loan that I received.”

But Covid-19 has affected the prices of the goods that Sonia sells and business has been slow. “When my business is not going well and when I don’t see a good result, I feel pain in my heart.” She used to sell bunches of bananas for 8,000 BIF (approximately $4), but she has had to drop the price to 5,000 BIF (approximately $3), so that she can keep her business running.

Sonia used to buy the bananas wholesale in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, but to counter the negative effects of the pandemic, she decided to go up-country to buy directly from the farmers at a lower price.

The political situation in Burundi this year has also affected Sonia’s business negatively. People are scared to move around, especially to places very far from town. Political tension and people’s apprehensions impacted on transport prices, so she had to pay 30% more for her goods to reach Bujumbura.

A small group of Burundian children painting a mural on a wall.

The majority of participants in this year’s cohort were young mothers. The entrepreneurship programme has enabled women like Sonia to provide for their children.

Also, her customers don’t have as much money to shop as they used to. “A lot of customers buy goods on credit due to Covid-19, then they don’t pay me on time. When I ask them about the money, they promise but don’t pay. I can’t fight with them so I just wait.” Sonia is currently unable to have all her goods on display for the customers to buy and wants to move to a bigger market that will attract more customers and increase her income.

If she had not taken part in New Generation’s Young Entrepreneur’s programme, Sonia said she would have felt stuck.“I think life would have remained the same as it used to be.” Despite the current challenges, Sonia feels encouraged, she said, “Now when I’m thinking about my future, I feel a sense of positivity when I see how my life is changing.”

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Coronavirus is threatening the progress of young women and girls like Sonia. Please continue to give them your support. Please click here to give to our Don’t Stop Now! Appeal.


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