© Courtesy of Cause Canada
Bring women together to be the change
“The Mothers’ Club was aware of my situation, so when CAUSE Canada wanted to know if girls in the community were out of school, the Mothers’ Club told them that I was one of them,” said Mariama.
When Mariama was 14 years old, her mother died, and she had to drop out of school. Mariama laboured on a farm to help grow peanuts, a staple food in Sierra Leone. “There was no one to support my education.”
There soon was, though—the community Mothers’ Club. When CAUSE Canada began working with the Mothers’ Club to help them identify and support girls to go back to and stay in school, Mariama was quickly identified as someone the Mothers’ Club could help.
Children out of school, adolescent pregnancies, and families struggling with little to eat—community women’s solidarity groups know what is happening in their community. When you invest in them to help, their impact is sustainable and empowering—both to them and the people with the greatest needs.
Through Mothers’ Club and other women’s solidarity groups, CAUSE Canada has supported thousands of children to stay in school. In Sierra Leone alone, over 800 adolescent girls on track for child marriage instead went back to school last year.
“While critical supplies such as food distribution are needed in times of acute crisis, longer-term solutions must be found if we are going to solve poverty,” Executive Director Wendy Fehr said. “We need to help people have dignity and the opportunity to find their way out of poverty so that they can meet their own needs. I love how we work together with communities, and particularly women’s groups, to empower them to identify and solve the problems of poverty.”
Mothers’ Clubs are one example of this approach. Women living in poverty are brought together, trained, and start small economic projects. These projects help them feed their families and send their children to school. Together they also agree on a small amount of funds that they will each contribute as “interest” on the grant into a savings box. With these funds, they identify children who are out of school and families who need food. They help children and families meet their most critical needs.
CAUSE Canada’s sustainable approach reaches far beyond helping women meet their own and their communities’ basic needs. It helps women find a voice and influence in communities primarily dominated by men’s voices.
“Women rarely have money of their own, and even more rarely do they have funds that they can decide how to spend,” Fehr said. “Gaining access to these types of funds, helps them to join in with the largely male-dominated community leadership. These women gain agency and influence in their communities. It is amazing to see women standing up to have their voices heard. They know what theirs and their families’ biggest needs are, so it is wonderful when they have an opportunity to speak about these needs.”
In Sierra Leone, women’s solidarity groups are called Mothers’ Clubs, but CAUSE Canada works in West Africa and Central America using this approach. In each country, bringing women to work together must suit their culture and challenges. In Guatemala and Honduras, Women’s Health Committees are solving the crisis of maternal mortality by ensuring that families can access qualified prenatal, postnatal and delivery care. They identify pregnant girls who would never have care and ensure they have access to medical support.
Women, especially women living in rural poverty in the developing world, rarely have a voice, but they know the problems. Sustainable, effective change happens when we bring these women together to be the change.
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CAUSE Canada partners with hard-to-reach rural communities in Central America and West Africa to empower people living in extreme poverty to meet their basic health, education and livelihood needs. We believe that all people, no matter where they live in the world, deserve dignity and justice.