Achieving gender equality in rural areas, where 80% of the agricultural workforce is female, has been a cornerstone of SWISSAID’s work for decades. Development may sometimes seem slow, but the successes are there for all to see. As in Chad, where access to land, livestock and agro-ecology training is improving the living conditions of women, and with them those of their entire families.
The diversification of women’s incomes and their participation in decision-making bodies to make their voices heard. To achieve this, the project supports women in their efforts to gain access to resources by raising awareness among the authorities. In particular, the tontine system is being implemented. Women’s leadership and participation in decision-making bodies is supported by literacy courses and training on their rights and duties as citizens, as well as on many other topics to encourage them to participate more fully in public debates (training on citizen participation).
Empowering women is empowering society. And thus reduce hunger and poverty worldwide. SWISSAID has long been committed to this approach. Today, “the emancipation of women and the establishment of balanced relations between the sexes is a priority”, explains Daniele Polini, SWISSAID’s Head of Gender. And this priority cuts across all countries.
In Mongo, in Chad’s Guéra province, Khadidja Kotto Bakoulou raises her 5 children alone. While she smiles at the photographer today, just a few years ago she was struggling to make ends meet. “I was reduced to plowing the fields of richer people to get enough to feed my children. I could have rented land, but it’s very expensive and very often of poor quality”, explains the 51-year-old farmer. Precariousness is costly for women and for society as a whole. According to the UN, if women had the same resources and opportunities as men, they could increase their agricultural production by 30%, thereby reducing the number of people suffering from hunger by over 150 million.
Strengthening women's networks
18 years ago, Khadidja Kotto Bakoulou and other struggling widows came together to form a formal group. By applying to SWISSAID, they receive training in organizational management, budgeting, literacy and political advocacy. Their group takes shape and each member is encouraged to take part in decision-making bodies and make their voice heard. A rare occurrence in Chad, after lengthy negotiations, the group even obtained 6 hectares of land. “The traditional chiefs granted them land to carry out their farming activities. This has led to a marked improvement in living conditions, not only for these women, but for their entire families”, reports Manserké Baba, coordinator at the CELIAF (Cellule de liaison et d’information des Associations Féminines) office, the project’s local partner.
According to the UN, if women had the same resources and opportunities as men, they could increase their agricultural production by 30%, thereby reducing the number of people suffering from hunger by over 150 million. Women are an important and under-supported lever in developing countries.
Dive into agroecology
In addition to growing sesame, which they transform into flour to sell on the market, the rest of the land is dedicated to growing various types of fruit and vegetables for their own family consumption. For better yields, they have been introduced to agro-ecological methods: compost creation, conservation of local seeds, mixed crops and access to irrigation. This approach is one of SWISSAID’s main supports for women. “We no longer depend on other support. All the widowed women look after their children, enrolling them in school and taking care of their health. The whole family has enough to eat in the morning, at noon and in the evening”, confirms Khadidja.
If need be, my mom sells her goats and helps me and my little brothers.
Esther Salata, whose mother, a farmer in Chad, was given goats to start a farm.
Good for the stomach, good for the head
Mothers’ income directly benefits their children. It fills not only their stomachs, but also their heads. Esther Salada is 22 years old. Her mother, supported by the same empowerment project as Khadidja, received goats goats and training in animal husbandry. “In the past, women couldn’t own livestock. If a family had goats, they belonged to the man. So women were totally dependent on men’s injunctions and decisions.” But through advocacy and awareness-raising, things are changing. And the income earned by her mother from her livestock has enabled Esther to continue her studies in the city. “If need be, my mom sells her goats and helps me and my little brothers.” A welcome help when you consider that each additional year of schooling increases women’s income by 10 to 20%.
SWISSAID’s commitment to empowering women farmers has been crowned with success. In Chad, but also in all its other countries. SWISSAID continues its projects in this direction with the same wish as Khadidja:
That all girls and women are listened to and have the same rights as men. I would like them not to suffer as we have suffered in the past, without any consideration whatsoever.
With women like Khadidja, Manserké and Esther, SWISSAID can only have faith in this vision of the future.