Building Financial Empowerment in Liberia

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In rural Liberia, financial management, education and access to borrowing money have historically posed significant challenges for women in rural communities, hindering their economic stability and decision-making power. In Nimba County, for example, women have limited opportunities for financial literacy and are often excluded from important decision-making processes within their households.

Catholic Relief Services, in partnership with the National Adult Association of Liberia, is implementing the Rural Savings for the Future project, which addresses the financial and cultural barriers that women experience. The approach includes increasing financial capacity and money management for women while improving household decision-making power when it comes to saving money and having access to loans. The project is using the Private Service Provider approach to form savings and lending groups in the farming communities in the project counties.


Odell Zolie savings group leader in Liberia

Odell Zolie is a private service provider who has managed to establish 12 savings groups in six communities in Nimba County, Liberia.

Photo by Boakai Koilor/CRS


Hailing from Gbanla in north-central Liberia, Odell Zolie was initially recruited as a field agent. Her commitment and eagerness to learn led her to become a private service provider trained and certified by CRS. As a result, Odell has established 12 saving groups comprising 30 members each in six communities in Nimba County. Through the project, Odell has developed and knowledge about leadership, money management, gender norms and other skills that have allowed her to become a catalyst for change in her county.

"Through the opportunity CRS has given me, I've learned that financial empowerment is not just about money, it's about making us know what we need to do to make our life better,” Odell says.


savings group leaders meet in Liberia

Odell Zolie, center, sits with a savings group supervisor and CRS project officer as they discuss ways to establish new community savings groups.

Photo by Boakai Koilor/CRS


To establish savings groups in these communities, Odell engages in community outreach. She explains the benefits and structure of savings groups to the community and its leaders to recruit members. Once a minimum number of participants has been recruited, she assists the members in forming leadership and developing governance structures and operational guidelines. Upon the group's formation, Odell provides support and training, including educating members on savings, seasonal calendars, money management, gender norms and child-optimized financial education to help parents and caregivers make better financial decisions and increase investments in children. 

As a private service provider, Odell attends each group's weekly meetings to offer guidance, provide training, address challenges and ensure transparency in the group's weekly savings.

"Being a private service provider isn't just a title. It is an opportunity for me to lead, help, and make a difference in the county,” Odell says.


savings group leaders in Liberia

Odell Zolie, center, provides women and men in rural communities with skills to improve how they manage their finances.

Photo by Boakai Koilor/CRS


She remains a symbol of empowerment as she continues to educate other women to maximize their financial and decision-making potential. Her story exemplifies the project’s transformative and positive impact on participants and showcases the potential women have for economic growth and stability in their communities.

"The project is not just helping the participants—it's helping me to take charge of managing my life for the future,” Odell says.