In villages such as Gando women play a vital role, taking care of the house and children, and working in the fields. At the same time, most women are strongly dependent on their husbands, and literacy among women is much lower than for men.Â To escape the vicious circle of poverty and lack of education, the women of Gando established the cooperative project âSongtaabaâ in 1999.
This womenÂ´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.Â 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 5 % interest. One part of the interest is used to finance the management of the cooperativeÂ´s fund, and the other part goes back into the fund and can be used for credits or for new investments, for example 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.
Through to 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 the interest back, as well as to respond to some of their family needs (for example school fees).
In order to provide a meeting place and storage space for the womenÂ´s cooperative, we have built a womenâs centre. Thanks to this cooperative, womenÂ´s quality of life will improve, they will gain financial independence, and womenÂ´s empowerment will be promoted. The cooperative will have a role in raising awareness, leading to better information on health and nutritional matters, as well as agricultural production.
This multifunctional center will also be used as a place for adult education, meetings and information sessions. A storage room for farming and household production will also be incorporated. Thus, the women will be able to store the crops they harvest in the fields, and later on sell them at the market. These rooms will also be used for learning about new processing methods for fruits and vegetables: mangoes, bananas, manioc and sweet potatoes are dried to be eaten or sold at the market, generating extra revenue during the dry season.Â