Women’s self-help helps everyone

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Limiting women’s power keeps everyone poor – and it also keeps them in conflict. When women are involved in peace processes the likelihood of real, long-term success increases by 20%. And when women have access to income, it’s not just her family that benefit: the whole community does.

This has been the biggest success of our women’s self-help groups. For the last five years our team in Ghana have facilitated women’s groups, a space where women from both sides of the conflict divide can come and discuss their vision for the community.

The biggest project to emerge from these meetings is our Animal Rearing project, where each member of the group started by finding one animal for themselves, building a safe hut to keep it, and ensuring they have a simple system for feeding and giving water to the animal to keep it healthy.

CHIPS then gives each woman in the group two animals (either sheep or goats – whatever they already have) so that each woman can start expanding her herd and developing an animal-rearing business.

As their herds grow, the women each pass on two animals to a new group member, so that a new woman can start this process and eventually all women in the community who want to be involved will be able to keep animals.

But this wasn’t enough: community groups are expanding their mission to meet the needs of all its members. Groups have used our meetings to establish a micro-loans scheme, so that all members can access cash and save money when they need to – and the interest on loans goes back into the pot so that all women benefit.

Women are also farming, using CHIPS help and their neighbours support to work land that they could never have managed before – and this week we get to celebrate that CHIPS help has increased production by 150%.

But it also shows how far the relationships in the community have come – they are trusting their hard-earned money to a former enemy, who is enabling them to build a better and more sustainable future.Communities are bringing themselves out of poverty by trusting in each other.

Once these groups are established and empowered, the women take it in the direction that they want, with many of them using the benefits they gain to help their children to stay in school, to have enough nutritious food, and overall to improve the life of the whole community for a generation to come.

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