In Chad, it’s unlucky to be born a girl. Many girls suffer genital mutilation and are later forced to marry against their will and often beaten by their husband. They become mothers when they are still far too young, and their newborns are among infants with the world’s highest mortality rate. The women are thoroughly dependent on their husbands; they have no money and hardly any rights. 75 per cent of them cannot read and write.
Nothing comes easy for the women
Guéra, Tandjilé and Logone Occidental Regions are amongst the most impoverished areas in Chad. Almost all families earn their living from agriculture. Because the soil is depleted and the drought season is long-lasting, their harvests are poor. Women suffer the most, as despite the daily water collection and hard toil on the fields they have a daily struggle to find enough to eat. They have a strong incentive for change.
SWISSAID knows that a successful campaign for more opportunities and women’s rights means that children also benefit and ultimately the whole community. Those who can read and write have already taken a major step towards more self-determination. For this reason, as one of our first measures we opened nine literary centres in Guéra, Tandjilé and Logone Occidental where 900 women learn reading, writing and arithmetic. This instantly improves their chances to become economically more successful, more self-reliant and more independent.
Unrelenting and senseless talk is something that women encounter from childhood. What is new, is support for women farmers from our local partner organisation, CELIAF, to set up women’s groups and make their decisions democratically as well as to not be silenced. They meet with village chiefs and criticise traditions which make it impractical for women to own land. Additionally, they demand fair access to the soil.
We also address the taboo subject of domestic violence. Our educational campaigns teach 1,800 men, women and children about the catastrophic situation of many women. A new way of thinking can only thrive among the local population if the routine violence is debated on the radio, in newspapers, at the market and in the village square, and is publicly condemned.
Increasing the harvest and motivation
The focus of the women’s work is still on their fields. They meet agricultural experts and learn why more and more of their land is turning to desert and how they can boost the productivity of their vegetable fields by paying more attention to irrigation and with self-produced compost. In addition to the bigger harvest, they also feel more motivated to cultivate a wider area and to grow their own staple foods like sorghum, rice and peanuts.
SWISSAID funds agricultural training courses for 18 women’s groups alongside the supply of tools like spades, hoes and watering cans as well as helping them to process agricultural products. Peanut oil, beer made from corn, or soap and butter produced with the fatty karité fruits of the shea tree achieve high sales at the local market. Since the women sell their products collectively and with no intermediary agent, they earn market power and money.
Pumps and wheelbarrows make lighter work
The success has also been noticed by the men. An occasional admiring glance is cast towards the manually operated pumps, which make it easier to irrigate their fields, and the wheelbarrows, which the women’s group have received. This equipment not only lightens the workload, but simultaneously increases efficiency and enhances the women’s reputation. To ensure that this is sustained for as long as possible, 90 women farmers learn how to use and maintain the agricultural equipment. But, isn’t that a man’s task? The women think otherwise.
Code of project: TS 02/17/03
Duration: 1 Year
Number of Beneficiaries: 6100 women, men, children
Costs: 137'720 Swiss Francs