Women Making a Difference: Zahra Shambob


October 16th, 2015

When you reach the outskirts of the city of Kassala, you will notice a beautiful and modest building, with women entering and exiting. One cannot help but wonder what is taking place in this building. If you are one of Kassala’s rural women, you will understand the importance of this building to women outside the city and its outskirts. This building is located in a neighbourhood called ‘Tagelsir District’, and the building serves as the location of the ‘Women’s Development Association Network, Kassala’ (WDAN).

The Women’s Development Association Network was first established by Practical Action in 1994. It is managed by women and for women to address their social and economic issues. The network has grown to hold over 50 associations, and offers direct and indirect support for women, while encouraging positive change in women’s lives. The association has gained donors’ trust, and the ability to receive funds, all through the effort of women since day one of its establishment. The unique thing about the WDAN is that while they have criteria for membership, a woman’s level of education is not a necessary one. In fact, the WDAN seeks to educate women and eradicate illiteracy through its programs.

WDAN KassalaWDAN adopts the REFLECT approach, which improves women’s skills through teaching them how to deal with issues they are facing. For example, one can gain skills in the ‘Health Unit’ not only by learning how to read and write, but also through learning solutions to health issues in their communities and an ability to make decisions in development. This brings forth the cases found in the Shambob village, which its association serves as one of the WDAN’s memberships. The Shambob association provides services for women including literacy classes and Income Generation Activities.

One of these remarkable women is Zahra, also known as Zahra Shambob.  Zahra was an illiterate woman, and is the mother of five children. Zahra began taking literacy classes which focused on building skills in savings and management of finances, and more importantly, she learned bookkeeping. Through integrating the REFLECT approach in activities, she was able to document financial processes for herself, and other women. This empowered her and made her valuable to her community, and she became a reliable trustee when it comes to savings. On a personal level, Zahra says When my son would send me letters from university, I had to go give the letter to one of the men in my neighbourhood to hear my son’s news. I could not even read or know the difference between my children’s birth certificates, but now, this is possible for me.”

Because of Zahra, and many women like Zahra, we support rural women and encourage partners to support women’s literacy projects; it increases their knowledge, power, capacity and ability to be decision makers at home and in the community.

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