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Empowering Women through Training: A Female Entrepreneur’s Journey to Drug Shop Ownership

Valerie is a single mother of an 11-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy. Valerie and her family live in Ambohimahasoa, Madagascar, a community with a population of 40,000. In Ambohimahasoa, people face a variety of health challenges such as plague, malnutrition, schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia), and malaria. As in many communities across the country, women and children lack knowledge on health prevention tactics, treatments, and their health rights. They tend to have fewer opportunities to participate in income generating activities and frequently face domestic violence and illiteracy.

In Ambohimahasoa, Valerie serves as Coordinator for the Women Entrepreneurs of the Indian Ocean (in French, Entreprendre au Féminin Océan Indien or EFOI) and is also a member of the National Council of Women in Madagascar (in French, Conseil National des Femmes de Madagascar or CNFM). These two national women’s organizations coordinate closely with IMPACT and have regional branches that help them carry out their work. Since 2012, Valerie has also run her own small business of building schools in surrounding communities.

In August 2021, Valerie attended the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Improving Market Partnerships and Access to Commodities Together (IMPACT) program’s gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) training, focused on leadership and advocacy. The training was organized and implemented with CNFM and EFOI and provided participants with the opportunity to learn about and discuss reproductive health and family planning, access to health products, access to finance, foundational GESI concepts, and strategy planning.

“Women, whatever the challenges we face, we should always find ways to advance own life and those of our families. Do not be discouraged anymore as men and women now have the same rights.”


Eager to share what she learned through the IMPACT workshop, Valerie has since organized a group of 15 rural women in her community and passed on her knowledge of women’s health rights, domestic violence, advocacy for family planning, and advice on setting up income-generating activities. Those women, in turn, have planted geraniums for essential oil and rice for food. With support from EFOI headquarters, they are now seeking clients in other areas of Madagascar. In March 2022, Valerie, through an affiliate of CNFM, participated in the national International Women’s Day celebration held in Antsirabe, where IMPACT coordinated activities to celebrate women and their achievements. It was during this event that Valerie and the affiliate association received the award for Best Entrepreneur in the country.

Valerie (second from left), her assistant (far left), and the women she trained. Photo Credit: Valerie
Valerie (second from left), her assistant (far left), and the women she trained. Photo Credit: Valerie

Valerie shared that her experiences with the IMPACT program helped her to increase her self-esteem, capacity, and self-confidence to speak publicly and be heard. She has also been able to expand her professional network and serve as a women’s empowerment advocate in her community. The most important impact, however, has been the improvement in the relationship between Valerie and her children. Valerie expressed that she now better understands her responsibilities and is able to be an amazing mother, who has given her life greater balance.

Valerie dreams of setting up a drug shop in her community with her sister, who is currently a paramedical student. In Ambohimahasoa, people travel as far as 56 kilometers (35 miles) to reach the nearest pharmacy in Ambositra. Due to the distance, people often use traditional healers or purchase medicines from grocery stores. Valerie and her sister hope to change this, bringing much needed health commodities to their area and a closure of health inequities in her community. Valerie is patiently awaiting her sister’s graduation for this dream to become a reality.