The Importance of the Group & Group Stories

Posted on Feb 27, 2018

Right Sharing of World Resources requires that beneficiaries of grants be part of a self-help group. Each group consists of 20-30 women who meet together once or twice a month for peer support, which increases their success and sustainability. The benefits of the group, however, are greater than economic, as it provides an opportunity for the women to be in community with one another and to support each other as problems or needs arise. It helps the women’s voices be heard in the community and gives them political and social clout that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

In Kenya, a group is often affiliated with more than one tribe, even though this practice is counter-cultural. In this way, the women are choosing to come together to change the culture. In Kenya, Sierra Leone, and India, Right Sharing groups also come together across lines of faith. In India, inter-faith collaboration is not generally encouraged, but that doesn’t stop the groups made up of Muslim, Hindi, and Christian women from supporting one another in their businesses and lives. In all three countries, the group is frequently a crucial source of social support and strength for the women facing difficulties in their marriages, family, or the larger society.

In Sierra Leone, the support of the group has also been invaluable to women who are survivors of the Ebola disease. Neighbors and even relatives have refused to have anything to do with an Ebola survivor, fearing that she could give them the disease or is somehow tainted. Oftentimes survivors have lost all their family members to the disease and are left without any support. The women’s cooperatives in Sierra Leone have reached out to these women and invited them to be part of the group, helping them to feel valued and cared for and to develop an interest in living again. The presence of RSWR Field Representative Sallian Sankoh (who visits and supports all the groups in Sierra Leone) also further works to undo the cultural taboo affecting Ebola survivors.

Group Stories and Projects

KENYA

Nangili Friends Women Group

 Nangili Friends Women Group has 60 members. They erected a tomato greenhouse where they commercially grow tomatoes as a group project. This endeavor provides an income for the group that goes into its revolving loan fund, which is then used to make loans to individual members for their own small businesses. RSWR Field Representative, Samson Ababu, says: “The Nangili project is an economic powerhouse within the entire region.”

 

The Sikulu Friends Women Group with their pastor (second from right) and the motorbike their group purchased.

Shikulu Friends Women Group had the idea to buy a motorcycle for their small village, where minimal transportation had made it extremely challenging to get access to healthcare. The group hired a driver, who takes people where they want to go for a fee. The motorcycle brings in $109 per month for the group treasury. They even asked their pastor to bless their motorbike.

Chairlady of the Jitahidi Self Help Group with their catering supplies

The women of Jitahidi Self Help Group have individual small businesses, but they also have a group catering business on the weekends, in which they all participate and share the profits. The business is also a bonding opportunity as they collaborate and work together.

INDIA

Women in India arrested for protesting

When former RSWR Board Member Linnea Wang visited groups in India, one of them was proud to show her photos of them being arrested! This came about because they had confronted a wealthy landowner who had let water out of the community water reservoir, which had damaged the land. The landowner called the police on the women, and 300 of them (and their children!) ended up being arrested. Because there were so many women involved, the local government took notice, and eventually a court ruled in their favor. The women received compensation, and the landlord was required to replace the water tank.

In 2015, a RSWR partner was sexually assaulted. Crimes such as this against women often go unpunished in India; indeed, even though the woman pressed charges, the police refused to arrest the man. The other women in her self-help group supported her and organized 80 women to demonstrate outside the police station. The local press took notice and began covering the story, so the police were forced to arrest the man. It eventually became national news and brought the issue to everyone’s attention.

SIERRA LEONE

Mamie Kamara

Ebola struck Mamie Kamara’s home in July 2014. Her husband and all of her children died of the disease. She also became ill and had to go away to seek treatment. She recovered, but returned home to find that she was the only surviving member of her family. In addition, her neighbors and friends distanced themselves from her and wouldn’t interact with her. She met the director of Tewoh Community Development Organization (TCDO), who encouraged her and put her in contact with other Ebola survivors and widows in the TCDO group. After starting a soap- making business with her loan from the RSWR grant, she said, “I now have happiness and joy. I once again have friends, and I can now buy nice clothes, and eat good food, and socialize with my community.”