Roxana Añez is a Bolivian woman and a mother of nine children. She lives in small indigenous community in Tacana Altamarani which is located on the river Beni, three hours downriver from San Buenaventura.
Roxana, an intelligent and driven woman, has always wanted to study and increase her knowledge for the benefit of herself and her community. Unfortunately, because of the social and cultural norms, it has not been possible. Like in many other indigenous communities in Bolivia, a woman’s role is to ‘serve’ her husband and children. This meant that Roxana, like other women in Altamarani, had to spend her days walking to the river bank and back to collect water and to do the washing. After these daily chores, there was no time left for anything else.
“That was our life. To climb up that ravine under the burning sun, with all the bottles of water and clothes that needed washing.”
In 2014, the course of Roxana’s life suddenly changed. This was the year when heavy rains and flooding tormented the little community in Altamarani. Because of the flooding, the people in the community lost over 80 per cent of their crops. In addition, their access to clean water was cut – leaving the whole community on the brink of survival.
Practical Action, in partnership with Christian Aid, responded to the emergency. Based on the analysis of the situation, they quickly identified, that the primary need in the area was clean water. Because of the flooding, the water was difficult to access. In addition to this, the water in river Beni was contaminated, causing severe health problems.
In order to solve the problem, Practical Action installed a solar-powered water pumping system which is a great technology for emergency response because it does not require any fuel costs. Thanks to this new technology, people in Altamarani now have access to clean water at their homes.
Because of the installed water pumping system, Roxana no longer spends her days walking to the river bank and back. This means that she finally has time to educate herself and to do other things she has always dreamt of. Shortly after the pumping system was built, she participated in the agroforestry knowledge exchange programme that thought her new, sustainable ways of farming.
“I have now returned to my community to put all that knowledge into practice. I wish everyone had the opportunity to leave and participate in these kind of activities, so they can learn. I want to keep learning.”
Because of her knowledge and eagerness to learn, Roxana is now one of the leaders in her community. Together with her husband, she owns a farm that produces fruits and medical plants. In the future, Roxana wants to keep on learning and developing herself for the benefit of the community.
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“The gift of material goods makes people dependent, but the gift of knowledge makes them free”, these profound words of E.F.Schumacher still hold true today. In fact, they are the foundation of Practical Action’s last mile knowledge service, Practical Answers. Knowledge sharing, skills development and capacity building allows vulnerable communities across the globe to improve their own livelihoods and thrive in future years to come.
Meet Mrs Chaudhary, a mother to five. She lives in the far west rural region of Nepal. This area has a past. The 17th July 2000 was a milestone in Nepalese history, the day the Government of Nepal abolished the Kamaiya system– the abolishment of bonded labour. Kamaiyas were freed, Mrs Chaudhary was freed. Yet, life remained difficult. These families were sent to live in Mukta Kamaiya, communities of freed bonded labour set up by the government. Life remained difficult for Mrs Chaudhary, although she had been re-housed the promises of rehabilitation had not be fully fulfilled. Wage labour was essential if she was to support her family and change her livelihood for the better:
“The government had provided us four Kathha (approx. 14,500 sq.ft) of land with some money to start our new life as a freed Kamaiya, but it was insufficient to fulfil the daily needs of the family. I along with my husband worked as daily wage labour for 15 years but still struggled to make ends meet for our family and fulfil our children’s basic needs. Many organisations came to us in past; they sympathised on our situation and showed us hopes and inspirations but almost to no effect.”
Gyanodaya Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC), supported by Practical Answers, is located in the area. Owned by the local community, staff knew that the Kamaiya community must be supported through the gift of knowledge. Social mobilisers encouraged individuals, like Mrs Chaudhary, to join their training and learning sessions. These participatory trainings focus on income generation activities and diversification; key skills to improve the livelihoods of these vulnerable communities. Sceptical at first, participants of these sessions are now thriving commercial farmers specialising in agribusiness. Mrs Chaudhary is one of them. Social mobilisers from the CLRC had encouraged her to participate, sharing the benefits that neighbouring communities had gained since joining the training. During the training, she learnt how to write business proposals to apply for government grants:
“Surprisingly, I got a grant of NPR 40,000 (£300) along with some machinery for mushroom farming and now I have started commercial mushroom farming. I was able to produce 50kg of mushroom. With the money, I am building another tunnel to grow 200 more bags… CLRC has built hope on us to change our lives”
Knowledge sharing and skills development for individuals, like Mrs Chaudhary, enables vulnerable individuals to improve their own livelihoods by their selves, to grow and prosper without handouts. Knowledge empowers. Knowledge empowers women like Mrs Chaudhary to be business women supporting their family, community and growing their own confidence day after day after day.
Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site and meet other inspiring women just like Mrs Chaudhary!
Want to help women like Mrs Chaudhary 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.
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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.7 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
Farida Bascha joined Practical Action as Eastern Africa Regional Director in January 2017 and is a strong advocate for Gender equity and women’s rights. We caught up with her prior to the International Women’s Day to learn more about her and her thoughts about women and development.
Congratulations and welcome to Practical Action! Can you tell us little bit about your background?
Thank you, I’m really excited about this opportunity! My mother once joked that my faith and beliefs are human rights – I don’t think she was wrong as that perfectly sums up my background! With my first degree in law and human rights, my career has been embedded in the principles of dignity, equality and accessibility of human rights. That continues to be my drive and also led me to my position today.
What inspired you to join Practical Action?
It is a great time to be part of Practical Action as the organization is embarking on a new Strategy. Being part of this change, and leading the change in East Africa, inspired me to join the organization. Practical Action’s ‘small is beautiful’ approach means that we get to work with those communities who are often left behind. This is an approach I want to be part of. The new Strategy also puts women and climate change at the centre of our work which is something that I am excited to drive within the region.
What are your thoughts on current state of women’s rights?
At the global level, the influence of women has become more and more visible. Women’s rights are being discussed again as human rights and this has escalated the need to understand the marginalisation of women in society and decisions that affect them. Women are more educated and work more, however, the social dynamics haven’t changed in many societies. Could this be the time to address the structural causes of discrimination against women, and social gender norms and perceptions that act as barriers to an equitable society?
Why women and girls should be placed at the heart of the development agenda?
With the adoption of the SDGs, the need to place women squarely within the development agenda has never been stronger. The targets under the SDGs look at enhancing the opportunity towards equal access to work and reducing the different dimensions of discrimination. To understand these needs and realize sustainable solutions, we need to involve women in all these discussions. Practical Action’s new Strategy puts the needs of women at the centre of our work which is in line with the SDGs, and provides an exciting opportunity to address the barriers to gender parity.
What are your thoughts on women in leadership positions?
We need more women in leadership positions. Leadership to me means being competent and confident to make and uphold decisions. It is extremely important to have women in these decision making positions. That might be the biggest challenge yet but very possible. Women in decision making positions sets the pace for change for millions of women who strive for the same. No one better than a woman herself to understand the change that is needed and be in a position to make this change.
What advice would you give to aspiring women leaders?
Stay driven and keep your dreams and ambitions alive. It might not be an easy road, but every moment wasted looking back stops us from moving forward. Women are the most untapped resource and talent in society. If we can inspire more women leaders, we can achieve an equitable society.
Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site and meet other inspiring women like Farida!
Want to help empowering women 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.
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