Written in partnership with Mariama Kamara, Founder and Director, Smiling Through Light
The energy sector is traditionally male-dominated with men’s access to better education, skills training, and finance enabling them to develop businesses and access markets that women have often been excluded from as a result of gendered social norms and women’s unpaid care work. In the energy world, the role of women has often been limited to that of consumers; particularly in relation to the household sphere and cooking practices. The benefits of clean cooking fuels and technologies on women and girls is championed on global platforms; and women are being increasingly recognised as important to energy access planning processes. What benefits arise, though, when we embrace and empower women as agents of change who are actively striving for, and driving us towards, Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7)?
CSW61: Women as Agents of Change
Last month, at the UN’s 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), Practical Action hosted a parallel session exploring just that: Women as Agents of Change in Sustainable Energy Access Value Chains. The session, which heard from Practical Action’s Sudan and East Africa offices, Smiling through Light, Energy Research Institute Sudan, and Solar Sister, demonstrated that investing in women’s potential as entrepreneurs, technicians, policy-makers and thought-leaders is vital for achieving gender-transformative outcomes and more effective energy access approaches.
Gender Equality + Sustainable Energy Access = Opportunity for All
Across the panellists’ different experiences, from the grassroots initiative of Smiling Through Light to the global campaign of Solar Sister, a clear message could be heard: at the intersection of gender equality and sustainable energy access lies vast potential – for women’s economic empowerment, certainly, and also for sustainable development and improved wellbeing for their communities and beyond.
The keynote speech, delivered by Lydia Muchiri, Senior Gender and Energy Advisor for Practical Action East Africa, explored the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya project (WEEK). Delivered in partnership with Energia, this project empowers women as providers of energy across three value chains – improved cookstoves, solar products, and biomass briquettes – in the roles of producers, suppliers and ‘brand activators’. WEEK project activities support women to build their social capital, develop fundamental business skills, and improve their confidence as entrepreneurs; these women now drive behaviour change, convincing others to adopt clean energy options. Five WEEK project entrepreneurs appeared at the recent SEforAll Forum to share their experiences, demonstrating a growing appetite to hear rural women’s grassroots knowledge on global stages.
Smiling Through Light: be the change that you want to see
Smiling Through Light’s Founder and Director Mariama Kamara highlighted the centrality of women’s knowledge, empowerment and collective action to building environmentally sustainable pathways to sustainable energy access; emphasising in particular the diverse roles women play across the energy value chain from production and transportation, to distribution and end use. At the age of nine Mariama left Sierra Leone during the civil war; after later learning that energy use in Sierra Leone was still mostly limited to kerosene for lighting, with no access to clean energy services, she started Smiling Through Light in 2014. By doing so, Mariama became the change she wanted to see. Smiling Through Light now advocates for women, as primary consumers and users of clean energy products, to be integrated into the process of designing appropriate solutions and engaged throughout the value chain to improve their livelihoods.
The path to SDG7
There remain many clear opportunities to advance women’s positions across the energy access value chain, including:
Policy – Advocate for policy that goes beyond perceiving women as victims of energy poverty or mere consumers, but as potential drivers of the sector. Embrace and lobby for the critical role of smaller, distributed energy solutions in addressing rural energy poverty, and women’s unique contribution to this sector.
Finance – Recognise that women’s access to finance is often constrained by social, political and economic constraints; i.e. collateral requirements based on land or asset ownership. Dedicate specific financing, credit facilities, grants and concessional loans to women’s sustainable energy activities.
Skills – Address the significant skills and local workforce development gaps in energy access in a way that empowers more skilled women to participate across the value chain, and educates others on the value of their contributions.
Evidence – Continue to build evidence to help inform policy on why women in clean energy value chains are uniquely positioned to make a lasting impact; bringing local women entrepreneurs and decision-makers’ voices and experiences to the fore.
As energy access advocates and champions of gender equality we must continue to find opportunities, like at CSW61, to demonstrate the positive impacts that women’s economic empowerment in energy access initiatives has for themselves and their families, as well as their extended communities and international development practice more broadly. We need to continue challenging damaging gendered social norms which disempower women as change-makers; and simultaneously strengthen policy coordination, knowledge sharing, financial inclusion, programmatic partnerships and research to advance women’s participation in sustainable energy development for all.
No Comments » | Add your comment
Haladete-East is a village located 40 km North from the city of Kassala, Eastern Sudan. It is a home of over 4800 people, from which 2850 are women. This is a story of an amazing water initiative that benefited not only one family but the entire village of Haladete-East!
Access to water has always been a serious problem in Haladete-East. Because there was no water nearby, people had to walk every day nearly three hours, through deserted roads, to collect water. Their only source of water was a remote hand-pump that was unreliable. The walks to collect water were tough and because of the heavy weight, only limited amount of water could be brought back to the village. Because of this, water could only be used to absolute necessities such as cooking and drinking.
To solve the problem, Practical Action launched a project called Aqua for East. The project, funded by DFID, aimed to improve the water security for the benefit of the whole community. To do this, Practical Action needed to build a water tank that would be big enough to provide water for 4800 people!
The first step in the project was to identify a location with a steady underground water supply (through hydrological studies and water catchment surveys). This ensured that the water supply would not run dry – even during the driest times. Once the right location was selected, Practical Action build the water tank, including two different distribution stations. One station was for women and the other for men. Each station included six water taps.
What makes this project so special, is the substantial community engagement. With the help of Practical Action, people living in the village established a Water Committee that looked after the management of the water distribution, including financial management and preparations should a damage occur.
Because of the Aqua for East initiative, the life of the people living in Haladete-East is now easier, healthier, more dignified and joyful. To summarise:
1. People do not need to walk long distances to collect water anymore. They now have an easy access to clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. In addition, small scale farming and animal farming have benefited from the secured water supply.
2. The initiative has had a tremendous impact on improved hygiene. Villagers are now able to wash their hands and shower more often, to do laundry and clean their homes. Furthermore, the food is less contaminated and diet more healthier due to in-house cultivated vegetables.
3. More girls are going to school instead of collecting water. In addition, they have more time to socialise and participate in income generating activities.
Nafish O’shak, one of the villagers, said: “Before, the community health promoters used to give us strong hygiene advice, but without water we could not do what we were advised to do. Now we have sufficient water and we are very hygienic. Our clothes, food and houses are extremely clean.“
Is that a revolutionary impact or what?No Comments » | Add your comment
The gender is at the center in our new Strategic Business Plan (SBP) 2017 to 2020. In terms of gender, the main shift in the strategic period is gender mainstreaming to gender transformation.
The gender transformation process dedicates to rigorous gender analysis on capacity enhancement, institutional strengthen, research and development of gender responsive policies through meaningful participation of women and men. The transformative change process goes beyond identifying and exploring the symptoms of gender equality, socially constructed norms, attitudes, and relations of power that underline the cause of limitation of men and women.
In context of Nepal, women are confined to the domestic spheres mostly in rural areas due to socially embedded and culturally accepted gender roles and responsibilities. So, this process examines the questions and seeks to change the rigid gender norms that causes power imbalances by encouraging critical awareness. The change process of gender transformation mainly focuses to unfold the causes and consequences of existing gender values and addresses them accordingly. This change process further encourages the society to promote the position of women by challenging the unequal distribution of resources and allocation regarding the power relationships. There are four different pillars for gender transformative change, they are:
The first and foremost area that needs to be focused is capacity of women’s leadership. It helps to respond to the need and requirement of an organisation’s future strategy. The development of new policies and strengthening of existing policies from gender perspectives support women in leadership and decision making positions. Such policies support including the socially excluded, economically poor, and vulnerable in terms of disaster risk reduction and those deprived of access to information and resources. It further encourages partnering with like-minded government, non-government organisations and civil societies, additionally, the research on GESI helps to provide evidence for the areas of concentration to bring the gender transformation change in an organisation.
In context of Practical Action, Nepal office, there are two areas that need to focus. They are;
- Capacity strengthening and women’s leadership
- Focus on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) through project activities
- Capacity building on Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) of staff and partners
- Initiate the Gender Audit through our existing projects
- Inclusive policies and partnerships
- Focus to implement of existing policies and development of new policies/ guidelines if required
- Partnership with like minded organizations to contribute on GESI areas in the implementation level
This comprehensive understanding of empowerment requires, not only the increase of women’s individual agency, but also changes to transform the structural barriers in order to shift social and cultural norms. This can be measured by examining three broad domains of transformative changes on empowerment, they are:
Agencies: Individual and institutional knowledge, skills and abilities
Relations: Complex and multi-dimensional and pervasive relationships to analyse through diversified tools and techniques
Structures: Power relationships governing collective, individual and institutional practices
These dimensions help re-frame the discourse of empower to focus on women’s individual agency to collect responsibilities and actions.
Overall, the gender transformative change impacts on institutional and individual level through gender inclusive policies keeping the women in front line positions in development interventions. This leads to rights of women along with gender related expectations. Eventually, it provides insights for gender transformative actions at organisation and programme implementation levels. Gender is so central to our new strategy. So, considering our organizational priorities, gender tansformative change is one of them.
No Comments » | Add your comment
Margaret Kariuku is a Kenyan woman who has not had the easiest path to success. As a mother of four, she has struggled to find a stable income to provide for herself and her children.
“Three times, I have had to start again. Three times, I have had to rebuild my livelihood. It all begun in 2005, when I stopped working as a secretary in Nakuru town. I thought that I would get my life sorted, but as fate would have it, this would not be.”
After she finished working as a secretary, she moved to her father’s farm, hoping to re-establish herself as a farmer. At first, her maize crops yielded well. However, as the days passed, her crops went down. By the third year, there was nothing left to harvest, and Margaret needed to decide what to do next.
“I picked up the pieces and decided to set up a milk collection centre. I bought milk from the farmers and sold it to the residents. I also decided to buy a motorcycle. When it was not used to collect milk, it would be a taxi. That way, I had two income streams.”
In the beginning, Margaret’s new business did well. Two income streams guaranteed a stable income. Sadly, after couple months, she realised that her employees were embezzling money from her. She needed to close the business. “I almost got disoriented when I lost my second business. But I collected myself again and set up once more.”
This time, she decided to establish a business on her own. She opened a grocery store which provided just enough income to keep her going. One day, she overheard her neighbour talking about a new source of energy called briquetting. This sparked her interest. She participated in a conference, organised by Practical Action Eastern Africa and SCODE (Sustainable Community Development Services), where she saw a demo of the production process. After the conference, her neighbour suggested a visit to the briquetting production site in the neighbourhood.
Although reluctant at first, she accompanied her neighbour to the site – pretending to be an entrepreneur. At the site, she quickly learned, that she could earn better income as a briquetting entrepreneur than owner of a grocery store. Meanwhile, the costs and availability of the raw materials made it easy to enter the market. She went back home feeling energised and thoughtful.
“My hope was that even if my grocery store was not performing well, I had briquettes. I knew that if I’d start producing them, I would be able to make a better income. So I started to produce them manually. I thought to myself, this is really hard! However, Practical Action and SCODE helped me. They rented me a machine to aide production. I had found my salvation.”
Margaret launched her briquettes business in 2015 and has increased her sales ever since. She has also participated in Practical Action’s training programmes, aimed to enhance women’s energy enterprise opportunities in Kenya. In 2017, she won the Energia Women Entrepreneurship Award – A prize that recognizes individuals that have done outstanding work in the sector.
In the future, Margaret wants to further expand her business and create jobs in the community. “Many young people are jobless, and many women are frustrated because they have no way of getting income. So I can use the prize money to give them a chance, to teach them, and to give them skills so that they can benefit the way I have.”
Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site and meet other inspiring women just like Margaret!
Want to help women like Margaret this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.6 Comments » | Add your comment
Mother’s Day is one of my favourite days of the year. Not because of all the festivities or pastries (which I don’t mind!), but because it reminds me of all the amazing women I have met, but I haven’t had a chance to tell you about yet.
Meet Kamala Joshi, a Nepalese single-mother who, like many other women in rural communities, got married in her early twenties. She had a baby soon after wedlock, sadly, her husband left her shortly after the baby was born. Kamala struggled to provide for herself and her child, and had to move out of her home. She found a temporary refuge from a women’s shelter (‘maiti’) but knew that she could not stay there for long. A fear to end up homeless was strong.
In Nepal, especially in rural areas, women’s fate is still linked to that of their husbands. A broken marriage leaves a social stigma that most of the women will have to carry for the rest of their lives – no matter what the reasons led to the separation. Women with unlucky marriages, often face discrimination and social exclusion without much hope for the future.
Kamala, however, refused to accept this and wanted to fight for a better life for herself and her daughter. She started working in agriculture and with some time, determination and a bit of luck, she was selected to participate in a training programme in agriculture with Practical Action’s partner, District Agriculture Development Office (DADO). From this, she gained the right tools and knowledge to establish herself as a self-sufficient small-scale farmer.
In 2014, couple years after Kamala had started as a small-scale farmer, she had another training opportunity through Practical Action’s Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security project. This time, she learnt skills and knowledge to support other local farmers. Since then, she has demonstrated and facilitated workshops in her community to share her knowledge of small scale farming for the benefit of all.
Kamala Joshi managed to break the cycle. Since she started to work in agriculture, she has no longer struggled to provide for her family and even managed to send her daughter to a boarding school. She is now one of the most respected women in the community, despite the social stigma of her marital status. Her story is an inspiring reminder that right knowledge, opportunities and determination have the power to break the social dynamics that cause discrimination against women.
Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site and meet other inspiring women just like Kamala!
Want to help women like Kamala this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.No Comments » | Add your comment
On 16th and 17th February, the MasterCard Foundation will host the Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, to address the opportunities for empowering young people to drive transformational change in African agriculture. Practical Action will be there to share evidence from its work of how technologies – from MP3 podcasts, to solar irrigation systems – can support young people to lead productive lives in agricultural areas, and move towards more sustainable, resilient farming. (more…)1 Comment » | Add your comment
With a number of challenges on the field and off the field, the team in India has managed to deliver some good sustainable practical solutions in last couple of years. Moving ahead for an eventful 2017 and with added challenges and milestones, I thought of ending the year with looking back at the sustainable practical solutions we have served so far.
Development is a process as we all know and in Practical Action the biggest learning so far I have got is how to make this process a sustainable one. Here I have documented 10 different projects and interventions which have been sustainable or aiming at sustainability delivering practical solutions.
- ACCESS cook stoves
Access Grameen Mahila Udyog, in Koraput which is nurtured by Practical Action has been instrumental in manufacturing and marketing of improved cook stoves. The cook stoves generate less smoke, save fuel and time.
It has contributed to less carbon emission and has resulted in healthier living environment in rural tribal houses.
2. SOURA RATH (Solar Power Cart)
Practical Action India developed a portable solar-powered cart (Mobile Solar Energy System) that provides energy for 72 hours to power mobile phones, laptops, lights and water pumps. The cart can serve up to a capacity of 5KW and can be used during the post-disaster emergency and is easy to be relocated from one place to another.
This model is applauded by Government of Odisha and is now being showcased at the Solar Park for public. We strongly feel this can add value to the cyclone shelter houses if used appropriately
Young girls and women in 60 slums of Bhubaneswar have formed Sakhi Clubs and spreading the knowledge on menstrual hygiene among other girls and peers. Our innovative radio Programme ‘Sunolo Sakhi’ has broken the taboo and enabled a conducive environment for discussion on menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls. The first ever radio show on menstrual hygiene Sunolo Sakhi is instrumental in bringing about change in the menstrual hygiene practices and behaviour of these young girls resulting in better health.
The comprehensive programme Sunolo Sakhi is also providing Audio book for visually challenged and video book for hearing and speech impaired girls in the State.
Community led water management has helped this tribal village Sundertaila in Nayagarh district to be self-sufficient in getting clean drinking water. Not only practical solutions but introducing user friendly and sustainable technology options at the last mile and serving them with basic needs is something what Practical Action tries to invest in its program efforts.
18 years old Sunil Tadingi of Badamanjari is now a successful entrepreneur and continues education in Semiliguda College. Despite all odds he is able to mark this achievement as his village is now electrified with the help of a self-sustained micro hydro power generation unit.
Badamanjari has set an example in Koraput district by generating around 40KW electricity to provide light to all the households of the village and people are able to watch TV and use fans as well. Rice hauler and turmeric processing units are also running with additional energy generated, as a result creating entrepreneurs like Sunil.
60 poor families in Kalahandi district of Odisha once deprived of access to electricity are electrified now. The wind and solar hybrid system by Practical Action has solved the basic energy need of the villagers with street lights, home lighting and fans.
Kamalaguda and Tijmali, these two villages are on the top of the hills where it was a day dream for getting electricity to fight with the night. Now, the villagers are capacitated to manage the systems by themselves without any external support.
At the backdrop of poor sanitation facilities in small and medium cities of Odisha, ‘Project Nirmal’ supports two fast growing urban hubs like Dhenkanal and Angul municipalities with a pilot intervention for appropriate & sustainable city wide sanitation service.
Project Nirmal aims at benefitting both the municipalities to set up Faecal Sludge Management systems by establishing treatment plants to treat the faecal sludge
“I felt very happy the moment I received the Identity Card from the Dept. of Labour and Employment, Govt. of Odisha” Says Salima Bibi a 25 year old informal waste worker from a Slum near Dumduma under Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Many informal waste workers in the state are being formalised and now accessing and availing their legitimate citizen rights.
9. LITRE OF LIGHT
Light comes from water bottles. Litre of Light is an open source technology which has been successfully experimented in 120 households in the slums of Bhubaneswar. It has now lessened the use of electric light during day time.
Small children can even study and men and women can do delicate cloth weaving and other productive activities during day time with the light provided by these solar water bulbs.
117 children of informal waste workers have been enrolled in schools in one day and are continuing their schooling; they were engaged in rag picking or related works previously.
While working with alternative energy, Practical Action focuses on advocating and influencing the society for a step ahead towards meaningful development3 Comments » | Add your comment
In my more than a decade long development journey, I have travelled a lot. I have reached to remote corners of the country and have listened to the voices of marginalised people. No place compares to Karnali region in remoteness and marginalisation. I had heard about it but got the opportunity to experience it only in the last October.
I started my journey of Karnali from Kalikot district. Kalikot is often referred as ‘youngest district’ in Nepal as it was separated from adjoining Jumla district only few decades ago. It is also the district where the likelihood of people dying younger is higher than other districts in Nepal as the life expectancy is just 47 years. Majority of people in the district make their living from subsistence agriculture.
Galje is one of the many places I visited in Kalikot. It at is about 3 hours’ drive from district headquarter, Manma. Practical Action has been supporting a farmers group in Galje to embrace the commercial vegetable framing through its BICAS project.
The topography of Galje was challenging and climate was hostile. However, people were very welcoming. I was particularly impressed with the gender composition of the group.
After the observation of the commercial vegetable plots, collection centre and agro-vets, we held a discussion with the farmer’s groups to know more about their new initiatives. The vegetable farming was indeed a new endeavour for them as there is the monopoly of the cereal based farming in Kalikot district as in other districts of Karnali. There was good participation of females in the meeting. They were little bit shy at the beginning however as the discussion progressed they became more active. I believe my presence in the meeting also helped them to open up.
I encouraged them to share their stories and experiences, which they did turn by turn. Each had different and encouraging story to share. I was particularly impressed by the story of Radhika Shahi, a young and energetic girl of 21 years.
Radhika is a plus two graduate. Unlike many youths in rural areas who find little hope in their villages, she is determined to make a difference in her own village. She has chosen agriculture to make the difference.
“Though all the households in our village make their living from agriculture, it is often looked down as something for old and uneducated people. I wanted to break the stereotype,” she shared.
“Like other families in the village, we were only producing cereal crops in our land. We had little knowledge about the vegetable farming. Though we used to receive some vegetable seeds from the Agriculture Service Centre (ASC) sometimes, we never took it seriously as we didn’t have skill and technologies required for vegetable farming. Neither, we knew that the vegetable farming is more profitable than cereal crops,” Radhika continued.
“BICAS project convinced us about the benefits of the vegetable farming and provided technical trainings on the improved farming practices. It also introduced us to new technologies like poly house for off-season production. An agro-vet and collection centre has been established at the nearby market with the help of the project. As a result, we have easy access to seeds, fertilisers and pesticides from agro-vet. Likewise, collection centre has made the marketing of vegetable easier,” Radhika added.
Last season, she made a profit of NPR. 48,000 (1USD = NPR 107) from selling bean, cucumber, cabbage and tomato.
“I think if we have better technologies and the access to market, we can prosper from the vegetable farming. Gradually, other people in the village are realising it.” She looked more determined and hopeful when she said it.
Listening to Radhika’s story, I felt like Karnali is not without hope as it is often portrayed. Young and energetic people like Radhika are keeping the hope alive in Karnali.2 Comments » | Add your comment
Written by Pratikshya Priyadarshini
A hot, sunny afternoon in the Sikharchandi slum of Bhubaneswar does not evoke the imagery of a drab, lazy life that it typically must. One can hear the din from a distance, hard rubber balls hitting against wooden bats, followed closely by the voices of young boys appealing instinctively to an invisible umpire. As we walk along the dusty paths, the roads wider than the adjacent houses, a number of young girls flock to us, greeting us with coy smiles. Young and old women, sitting on verandas, welcome us with pleasantries and call out to their daughters, “The Sakhi Club Didis are here!” We stop in front of a small pakka house, the purple paint shining brightly in the slanting afternoon sun while the rice lights from Diwali night hanging down the roof wait for the evening to be lit. 15 year old Sailaja comes out of the little door, wiping her hands and wearing an infectious smile on her face as she briskly lays down the mats for us to sit down. She then speaks to us about the Sunalo Sakhi program and her participation in it.
Sailaja was 13 years old when she first got her periods. Anxious and fearful, she informed her mother about it. She knew very little about menstruation before the onset of her menarche. In fact, even after she got her periods, she had very little knowledge about the process and had harbored a number of misconceptions that she had begotten from her previous generations. She recalls that when she got her periods for the first time, she was isolated from everyone and kept inside her house owing to the customary practices of her culture. Moreover, she was placed under a number of restrictions by her family in terms of moving and playing, interacting with boys and men and speaking openly about periods. Sailaja had been using cloth to prevent staining back then. She was facing a number of difficulties in keeping herself clean since she had to wash the cloth on her own and dry it. It used to be inconvenient during the monsoons and winter as there would be no sunlight and the cloth wouldn’t dry up. Add to that, she was not even aware of the health repercussions that using unhygienic methods like cloth instead of sanitary napkins might bring about. Sailaja tells us that when the CCWD and Practical Action program ‘Sunalo Sakhi’ started in her community, a lot of young girls and women were reluctant to go and join the meetings. With the constant efforts of the community mobilizers, the Sakhi Club was created in the area as a forum for dissemination of knowledge and discussion regarding menstrual hygiene and related issues. A number of women and girls started actively participating in the programme. The community mobilizers used a number of strategies like audio visual screening, radio podcasts, visual charts, action learning, songs and dance in order to educate the participants about the various facts related to menstruation. They discussed the scientific reasons behind menstruation and busted many myths regarding periods. They also discussed various health issues pertaining to menstruation, ways to maintain hygiene during periods and practices to be followed for proper healthcare during adolescence. Gradually, the girls who were initially reluctant began to open up and started discussing their own menstrual problems with the community mobilizers who tried their best to clarify their queries. Sailaja herself was facing problems with her menstrual cycle. Her menstrual blood was thick and clotted which caused her severe abdominal pain and nausea. She spoke about it to the expert doctor on the radio programme ‘Sunalo Sakhi’ and the doctor advised her to drink 4-5 liters of water every day. She followed the doctor’s advice and noticed changes within a few days.
Today the Sikharchandi Sakhi Club has 32 members. All of them, including Sailaja have switched to sanitary pads instead of cloth. Sailaja now changes her pads 3-4 times per day and disposes the used pads by either burning or burying them. She monitors her periods using a calendar. She uses the methods suggested by the community mobilizers like hot water press and ajwain water consumption to handle her abdominal aches during periods. Her problem with blood clot has also been completely resolved. She tells us that the conversation regarding menstruation has changed a lot at her home and in her community with most women now speaking openly about it and discarding the taboos and myths in favour of factual understanding. All the girls in the area now go to school during their periods while they were earlier stopped by their families. Sailaja now exercises regularly, eats a healthy diet and takes care of her health. She promises that she will keep spreading the message of the club among her younger friends and urge them to not be fearful or reluctant, to take care of their health and hygiene as well as to listen to the Sunalo Sakhi programme by Practical Answers on Radio Choklate so that their issues can be addressed.
(Ms Pratikshya Priyadarshini, Student of TISS, Mumbai interned with Practical Answers and was engaged in Sunolo Sakhi project)1 Comment » | Add your comment
People living in poverty in the conflict-stricken area of North Darfur face a severe shortage of money for household needs. They either endure the hardships or try to find someone to borrow money from. When it comes to women smallholders, they lack money for inputs and other cash needs in their household’s.
To address this problem, saving is a way forward. Those who can save then have funds for unexpected needs in the household and for timely investment in groups.
Practical Action Sudan, in partnership with the Women’s Development Association (WDAN) initiated training of horticulture smallholders using the Savings and Loan Association (SLA) approach.
SLA members save through the purchase of shares with a maximum purchase of five shares allowed per saving meeting. This allows for flexible saving depending on the surplus money members have. They meet weekly or monthly and continue saving for a period of nine to twelve months.
The project officer for the Community Initiative Sustained Development project within Practical Action Sudan, explained:
“The aim of SLA is to enable resource-poor households to access financial services in order to finance income generating activities that would increase their income and lift them permanently above the poverty line. It enables money to be available at the right time for purchase of inputs and other energy costs.”
SLA groups are providing smallholder women with the opportunity to save and borrow flexibly without having to go to the bank. With this savings methodology there are no problems of high minimum deposit requirements, hidden charges, complicated procedures, or difficulty in accessing loans.
The funds assist in building resilient communities and provide social safety nets, as they are used for inputs purchase, diversifying into other income generating activities, immediate household needs and provide room for assistance to members in case of death, disease or natural disasters. Such diverse services are not provided by local moneylenders, as they are not willing to provide for the poorest.
The process is very transparent as it involves each and every member within the sharing and lending processes. The fund is shared out at the end of each cycle which is normally nine months to a year.
This SLA methodology has proved to be a success. This year 20 SLA groups have been established in Elfashir in North Darfur. Shares accrued range from a minimum of 500SDG (£62) to 700SDG from monthly savings. In addition, the groups also pay towards a social fund, which can be used, when a member is having acute problems, such as unexpected medical expenses.
Villages using this method have been successful in helping women to learn about saving, to enhance social links within their communities and to make their first investments.
The project team conducted monthly field visits to monitor the progress of loans saving committees. Committee members contributed an average amount of 25-30 SDG (£8) each month. 345 women have benefited and saved a total amount of 74,101 SDG. At the end of a cycle the money is distributed back to the group members. It is very important that every member’s money is placed in their hand.
In total 879 households have accessed LPG through this savings program in Elfashir in different districts and 76 women have access to loans to establish income generation activities.
Women were thankful to Practical Action and the Women Development Association Network for empowering them and enabling them to finance themselves and their family in the face of extreme economic hardship.
“Now I can confidently grow for the market because I have access to finance for inputs from my savings group. I was about to give up due to lack of money.”
Access to clean sources of energy, livelihood and finance has led to the building of self-respect and self-reliance in the community.1 Comment » | Add your comment