MYTH 1: WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT COMES AT THE EXPENSE OF MEN

MYTH 1: WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT COMES AT THE EXPENSE OF MEN

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Posted
10/10/13

LOOKING FORWARD: Mamata Tinou, Niger

During Niger's drought of 2005, people in the village of Genki walked for hours in the blazing heat, searching for food to feed themselves and their children.

Yet last year, when even worse conditions beset Niger, villagers in Genki stayed put. They were well-fed and so was their livestock. The village's cereal bank was full. Amid one of the world's worst hunger crises — at its peak more than 7 million Nigerians were without adequate food — people from nearby villages traveled to Genki for its excess grain.

The difference: a women's savings and loan network led by Mamata Tinou.

Under Tinou's guidance, several of the savings and loan groups started a cereal bank that prevented spoilage and left them excess grain. Proceeds from the sale of that disaster-resistant millet led to construction of a commercial bakery that cranks out bread sticks. The women's financial transactions grew so frequent that they built a small bank so members could deposit and withdraw money outside of their regular meetings.

At first glance, Tinou is an unlikely leader. She's widowed, childless, walks with a heavy limp because of polio, and supports her mother and eight grand nieces and nephews. For most of her life she has been poor — even by the standards of an impoverished millet-farming village in one of the world's poorest countries.

Even with the drought, we have enough grain to eat, enough to sell and still some leftover.

- Mamata Tinou

Tinou's popularity among the women of Genki is no surprise. In a village with no doctor, she has acted as a de facto midwife for many of Genki's mothers. But the village's male elders support her as well. And that backing has only widened as nearby villages, impressed with the results in Genki, have adopted the same savings concept and formed a regional federation — headed by Tinou — to finance large community projects.

Last year, Tinou decided to run in local elections. She didn't care that no woman had ever been elected to serve on the regional government council. Neither, it turns out, did the people in and around Genki. They elected the woman who had proven, time and time again, that she could lift the entire community.

LOOK BACK

 

© 2010 Josh Estey/CARE

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