Good Morning!  After a good night’s sleep, am clear-headed enough to write about the Women’s Empowerment project.  And, Women’s Power is an understatement! What began with 9 groups of women for a total of 45 women the first year, will now grow to 315 women!

It began with a $500. loan which was repaid in one year.  That $500. , along with another $600. from St. Mary Magdalene’s church, was then loaned by the first group of women to bring the second year to 27 groups.  They repaid that loan yesterday, we will give it back to them and they will form 27 new groups for the coming year, bring the total number of women participating in the pig project to 315 women!!!  Isn’t this amazing??

From 45 to 315 in two and one half years.  This has been life-changing for the women.  We learned yesterday of a woman who was widowed five years ago. Without a husband, she had no support for herself and her children.  She was very depressed and isolated.  Her children could not attend school as she had no money for uniforms or books.  The women in her village who were in the first pig project let her join the new groups on credit.  She was able to sell her share of piglets and earn enough money to get her children to school and have money for food.  Her life has been transformed, as has many of the other women.  Some have bought tin roofs for their houses, clothes for their children, school fees, medicine and better food.

Another interesting outcome from all this is that all the women are now active in their churches.  We did not know this, but many did not go to church.  They had no money to put in the offering plate, and there is a deep sense of shame in us all when we are without work, money or support.  That leads to isolation.  In Ikowa, the addition of new women in the church and the money they were earning enabled them to at last put a cement floor in the church!   There are 10 churches in this parish, with the addition of three new groups of women, 8 of the 10 churches (or villages) will now have pig projects.  When next year’s loan is repaid, they will be able to include the 2 remaining villages.

As you know, we have funded a entrepreneurial class for women who have graduated from the Pastor’s Wives English Class which was started three years ago.  Tally wrote and obtained three grants from MDG committee for these classes.  This year’s entrepreneurial class will make a “field trip” to Ikowa to visit with the women there and learn about their pig projects.  This is women learning from women.  These women will go with their husbands to villages in the diocese and with the skills they have learned in the class, the inspiration from the women in Ikowa, they will form their own projects.  It may not be pig raising, as some areas do not lend themselves to that.  It could be nurseries for children, gardening, or something else that they will select based on the skills and environment of the women in those villages.

Tally and I have been told how unusual it is for loans to be repaid fully and on time.  It is essential for the groups to have moral guarenteurs.  In our case, Moses and his Mother, Rosemary, were the guarantors for the first group.  The women would not want to dissappoint Moses or his Mother, and Rosemary’s guiding hand was a help.  The next year another woman took over the role and is expert at guiding the groups.  Each new group becomes the moral guarantor for the next group.  This project became their project immediately.  All we did was provide that initial “leg up” and they have ridden off to new territories.

It is essential to the human psyche to have meaningful work, to be able to provide for one’s self and family.  The worst thing about being poor isn’t the lack of material things, but the sense of shame, failure, lack of self-worth.  People who feel helpless try many ways of coping with this, some are disfunctional – blaming the system, the rich, their race, etc.   But most are desparate to find a way of getting out of their situation.  For subsistence farmers everywhere who are at the mercy of the climate, or inner city people looking for work who have no resources with which to begin that climb, life can be very grim and a sense of learned-helplessness can erode the spirit.

Imagine if you had absolutely no money and had to find a way of earning income.  No money to buy a permit, or transport to work, or seed to plant.  You had the desire to work, but not the means to get started.  This is the beauty of micro-finance.  It has to be handled carefully, with people you know and trust.  Through forming some sort of relationship, and then it can work such wonders.  The lives of 315 women and their families are changed for the amount of $1,100. in loans.  Loans that have been repaid and passed on.

Be so pround, KARIMU donors, the women of Ikowa thank you, and we thank them for their gift of spirit and love.  J