The Graduation Speech


I recently wrote about a group of women who were graduating from Fonkoze’s Ti Kredi program into its standard Solidarity Group credit. (See: Boukankare Graduation.) What follows is the full text of the speech that one of the graduates made that day.

Good morning everyone. Good morning everyone.

I’m Lorise Viergella, from Pajès. I’m the leader of a solidarity group called “Canaan”. My heart is full of joy because of the help Fonkoze is giving us. Fonkoze is helping us free ourselves from the humiliation we suffer from the men in our lives.

Men look down on us. The say they have to buy even the gas for our lamps. They have to buy even the salt and the oil for our food. But we want to move forward. If the men provide beans, we want to buy the rice. If they buy us our panties, we want to buy their briefs. And we will do it.

When Fonkoze first showed up, it frightened me. I was a little bit afraid. But little by little, as I would go around, the women who were already members spoke with me. They shared what they had already learned. I said to myself, well, I want to make progress so that if my husband gives me the beans, I can buy the okra.

So I joined. And Fonkoze began to do a lot for me. Today, I am raising a small pig at the edge of the field. And it’s thanks to Fonkoze.

I’m making profit. I sell candy. I sell cold drinks. I buy my sodas for six gourds, and I sell them for ten. I buy my Cokes for 15 gourds, and I sell them for 20. I buy my King Colas for fifteen gourds, and I sell them for twenty. I buy my Maltas for fifteen gourds and I sell them for twenty. Now I’ve bought a little pig and a few little chickens. I pay into my savings club and I make deposits into my account. That’s just to say, I want to move forward. I want to become fat.

If my husband gives me 100 gourds for our household, I can reach into my candy box and add another hundred gourds, thanks to Fonkoze’s Ti Kredi program. Thanks to Ti Kredi Fonkoze.

Our Fonkoze credit agent, Doudou, would talk with us. He would say, “Don’t just go off and spend the money you make. Don’t just spend on pretty new clothes. Don’t make other purchases that could wreck your business.”

He never told us not to eat, but said we should eat economically. If we prepare food with just a little inexpensive fish seasoning one day, we can prepare meat the next. Then we should go back to the fish seasoning again.

All that makes me want to thank Fonkoze and its leadership, the folks that are helping us move forward. I thank them because now I can buy things like little notebooks for my kids.

Thanks to Fonkoze, we can buy a book or two as well. If dad buys a book, we can buy a notebook. If dad buys a pen, we can buy a pencil.

I thank everyone who’s graduating with me today, and those who aren’t yet graduating as well. We’ll pray with you so that tomorrow you can stand where we now stand. That’s all I want to say.