New perspective on women’s traditional role
In villages like Gando women play a vital role, taking care of the house and children, while working in the fields. Yet, most women are strongly economically dependent on their husbands, and literacy among women is much lower than among men (according to the World Factbook in 2015 29.3% of women above 15 years old knew how to read and write compared to 43% of men in the same age group). To break from the vicious circle of poverty and lack of education, the women of Gando established the “Songtaaba” cooperative project in 1999.
This women´s cooperative operates a microfinance system, giving women the possibility to take out loans to start small business initiatives. For example, women can use the money to buy groundnuts and extract their oil, which can then be sold at the market. The women have to explain in detail what they intend to do with the money and how their project will work. After six months, they have to pay back the loan at a 5 % interest. One part of the interest is used to finance the management of the cooperative´s fund, and the other part goes back into the fund and can be used for credits, or for new investments, such as the purchase of a groundnut peeling machine, or a peanut press for oil. One of the women is responsible for the coordination and supervision of the cooperative. She manages the fund, distributes the credits and collects the interest.
A center for adult education
Through the Songtaaba cooperative, women learn to work and manage an independent economy. Moreover, they can use the money they earn to pay the loan and its interest back, as well as respond to some of their family needs, such as school fees. This cooperative aims to improve women´s quality of life, help them gain financial independence, and promote women´s empowerment. The cooperative will have a role in raising awareness about health and nutritional issues, and agricultural production for the population
In order to provide a meeting place and storage space for the women´s cooperative, we are building a multifunctional women’s center which will also be a place for adult education, meetings and information sessions.
The building will include a classroom, a meeting room, an office, a kitchen and sanitary latrines. It will also have a storage room for agricultural goods and household production. This way, the women will be able to store the crops they harvested in the fields, process them, and sell them later on at the market securing their own income. These rooms will also be used to learn about new processing methods for fruits and vegetables. To generate extra-revenue during the dry season, mangoes, bananas, manioc and sweet potatoes are dried to be sold at the market.