The cliché about people lying around idly in the shadow of the baobab tree is well and truly refuted in southern Chad. You don’t see women there – they are slaving away to feed their families, to enable their children to go to school or to pay for medical treatment. To make their lives easier, SWISSAID helps them save time and energy. The most efficient way of doing this is by constructing a well close to the village. This means that women and girls have to spend between two and eight hours less a day fetching water from the river or standing in queues at the water hole which makes it possible for girls to attend school regularly. The women have more time to cultivate more land or find other ways to generate an income.
Livestock helping people
The draught oxen which SWISSAID buys for the women’s groups not only save the women time and spare them from hardship; they also enable them to carry out work which they would not have been able to cope with without the animals. An ox-drawn cart is used to transport clay to the pottery, and the finished jugs are transported to the sales stand. Organic material is transported to the compost heap, and the composted soil is spread on the fields. It is ploughed, and the harvest is brought in at a later date or carted to the market. Whenever the women are not using the useful animal themselves, they lease it out, boosting their income considerably. They use that money to pay the farmhand who looks after large animals, because that is men’s work.
SWISSAID has also supplied modest start-up capital for the ‘Tontines’, the credit and savings associations for the women’s groups. With more time at their disposal, the loans allow the women to invest in lucrative small-scale businesses, such as selling bread rolls, sweets or drinks. The modest additional income they generate this way enables them to repay their loans and interest. The interest is used as starting capital for the credit fund, which means that over time larger amounts can be loaned. Sometimes, there is even enough money left over for an investment from the group finances: for example, for the construction of a shed in which the women perhaps can attend literacy classes away from rain and dust, also thanks to the time they no longer have to spend working elsewhere.
More important than money: respect and solidarity
The women have their own money, manage their own organisation, and are able to read and write. But that is by no means all: the cooperation nurtures solidarity, which is much more valuable than all the project resources, because it builds their self-confidence and gains them the respect of the men and of the village community.
- Project number: TS 02/14/01
- Duration: 12 months
- Beneficiaries: 3469 people, of which 97% are women
- Costs: 86'533.- Swiss francs