SWISSAID intends improvethe social the social and economic situation of women in Guinea-Bissauthrough literacy, information and economic autonomy. Thanks to thesehese new skillswomen farmers are developing their businesses and increasing their incomesenabling them to provide for their families.
Augusta Dacosata was never allowed to go to school. «It’s affected me all my life. Until a few months ago, I couldn’t even write my name,» confides the mother of four, who lives in Guinea-Bissau. Now she has the basic knowledge not only to write, but also to read and count.
As a cashew nut seller, Augusta Dacosata attended literacy classes in her village run by local teachers trained by SWISSAID. Since then, the young woman has seen positive changes: “Before, I was often ripped off at the market. Today, I’m no longer fooled, because I know the change to the penny,” she says confidently. She adds: “I have [now] much more self-confidence and I’m taken seriously by men.”
In Guinea-Bissau, one of the most disadvantaged countries in the world, with almost 70% of the population living below the poverty line, lack of access to education is one of the main causes of precariousness and hunger. Women are the first to suffer, as only five out of ten can read and write. As a result, their chances of entering the job market, obtaining credit or taking part in political decision-making are slim.
To break this vicious circle and empower women, SWISSAID is building their capacities in a number of areas. In addition to basic skills, the organization also teaches them sales and negotiation techniques to boost their incomes. They learn, for example, how to set the price of a product, taking all production costs into account, and how to communicate easily with customers.
Almost 70 percent of the people in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau live below the poverty line. Women are particularly affected and disadvantaged in almost all areas of life. Literacy teaches them to read, write and calculate – the best means against hunger.
To attract customers, some twenty tables have been purchased and made available to the market gardeners. Agro-ecological vegetables can now be beautifully displayed on these tables, rather than on the ground as was previously the case. More attractive and appetizing, the display attracts the eye, invites people to come closer to see and smell, and highlights the quality of the vegetables. In collaboration with a graphic designer, the women have also created a logo to help consumers distinguish between agroecological and conventional produce.
Solar lamps and pumps
Before the produce reaches the market stalls, distances are often long: most women farmers carry their goods on their heads, sometimes resulting in losses as vegetables fall on the way. To make it easier for the traders to get around and transport their produce, SWISSAID has supported the acquisition of two motorcycles. The benefits: fewer losses and shorter journey times. The committees of the women’s groups are responsible for managing the two-wheelers.
Beyond these groups, the project has united the village women: «We exchange, collaborate and plan improvements together,» says Augusta Dacosata. The women can now meet in the evenings, thanks to solar lamps.
I am an adult, but I could not write my name until a few months ago. I was never allowed to go to school as a child. That has put me at a disadvantage all my life.
Solar-powered pumps have also been installed in the fields to reduce the women’s irrigation work, but also to boost production. Small farming tools, adapted to the work in the fields and manufactured locally, also facilitate the work and increase yields.
Marta Indibe Suqué learned agroecological techniques: «To produce safely, without damaging my health or that of my family and the environment», she points out. «I realized that it wasn’t worth spending money on chemical fertilizers, which are dangerous to store at home and to use in the fields. With the production of organic fertilizers, I have reduced my expenses and I grow better quality produce.» As a result, the family’s economic situation has improved: «I can guarantee a varied daily diet at home. Today, I can pay for my children’s schooling and their clothes thanks to the sale of vegetables.»
Today I can feed my children a balanced diet. I can pay all the school fees and clothes from the income from the vegetable sale. Because I can read, write and calculate, I have influence in my community.”
In addition to economic autonomy, gender equality issues are at the heart of the project. Women learn about their rights through awareness-raising activities. As a result, their social position is strengthened vis-à-vis men and village elders. They fear less to get involved and take part in decisions taken at communal level, such as those concerning well management and the use of machines like oil extractors and rice hullers. “As I now have influence in my community thanks to my literacy training, I encourage women to take part in SWISSAID activities. Their husbands look to me as a reference,” Marta Indibe Suqué points out.
Reading, writing and arithmetic enabletent to paysannes to fight hunger and defend their rights. «My living living conditions have improved considerably. I’m very happy», says Augusta Dacosatawith a smile in her eyes.