Esther sells palm wine and meals inside her baffa, a large single-room structure with a wooden frame and grass roof. She sits with a few customers who drink, relax, and dance to music coming from a large speaker connected to a car battery. The song ‘Suffa Posh’ by the artist Innocent begins to play. He sings in Krio about people who flaunt their success on social media but suffer in reality. The chorus translates to—‘you suffer / you act posh / this lifestyle is too dangerous / you snap with a car and update your [social media] status / you’re a Suffa Posh’. Everyone in the baffa laughs and some say they know people that fit the description. Esther talks about her baffa, current work, future plans, and source of happiness. She concludes with advice to the government and potential business women.
My husband works as a carpenter and mason so he built a baffa for me at the end of rainy season. He met with his friends to cut the grass on our land, then they burned it all. In December they went into the bush to cut sticks for the frame and planks for the siding. They put it all together then made a roof with layers of grass on top. After making the structure, my husband built all the benches and tables. Then he bought a big speaker and car battery so my customers and I can listen to music. I’m glad my husband is so supportive of my business. Some women don’t have that.
I sell poyo (palm wine) that comes from my village. People climb the palm trees to tap wine for me. I also cook for customers—potato leaf, cassava leaf, okra, or granat (peanut) stew. My daughter Hawa helps me around the shop after school by washing plates, spoons, and pots so I can cook. I profit from poyo and food equally, but business seems slow because the shop is new.
I get all types of customers, but mostly teachers from the nearby school or okada (motorcycle taxi) drivers that pass through town. Even though the correctional center officers live across the street, they usually don’t come. Men usually drink poyo, but both women and men enjoy my food.
In the future I hope to replace the grass on my roof with zinc. Water dripped from the roof during the last rainy season. Maybe my friends will come together and help me raise the money. My real dream would be to upgrade my baffa to a club with an entertainment center and bar. I’d sell soft drinks, beer, chicken and chips, shawarma, and Sierra Leonean food. I want to be serious in my work.
I’m so happy because God gave life, love, and health to me. Thankfully my children have the same. I’m happy for free education too. Let Sierra Leone’s children learn. The program helps me too—the money that went to school fees can now go to improve my business. Other than that, I’m also glad and grateful that none of my relatives or friends passed away last year.
Let Papa Government help support women who show interest in business. Maybe the district council could make a loan program to help businesswomen develop their ideas. I would even appreciate if the local government gave business lessons to help us learn and achieve success. My advice to women—show interest in business and do not fear the work. It will help you gain the upper hand in your life. Don’t allow your husband to scare you away from becoming independent. Work for yourself. Try to slowly talk with your man to convince him that business could benefit both of you.