When I was at University one of the core modules for my area of study Housing Management and development was DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE LAW. Domestic violence was considered in the context of property rights but for the purpose of this article I would like to look at the impact of domestic abuse on the economy.

A tall order perhaps but bear with me whilst I illustrate my point.

The fact about domestic abuse is that it ebbs away at the confidence and self esteem of the person at the receiving end of it. It makes them question their self worth making ineffective in all areas of their lives.

Imagine if you will a woman who is responsible for ensuring that the family is fed, clothed and has to work the land to grow the food to feed the family but is beaten by her spouse on a daily basis!

In some cases she is indeed the sole bread-winner in the family as the man’s income is spent on alcohol! What sort of life would children growing up in such a household have to look forward too!

It is widely accepted well as least in the case of African countries that the economic development of these countries rests with women. That being the case what would happen if women are ordinarily unable to participate in economic generating activities due to domestic abuse?

Does society owe such women the duty of care to secure the economic development of a county? What form should that care take?

I am happy to note that in Nigeria steps are being taken to address the issue of domestic abuse. The idea is to provide some for of safe house for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. You can read the rest of the story here
http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/editorial_opinion/article01/indexn2_html?pdate=111009&ptitle=Transit%20Home%20For%20Female%20Victims%20Of%20Domestic%20Violence

The question is most African countries are so conservative, how will such a facility go down in society? Will women have the courage to seek support and refuge in such a facility?

What will their peers make of it?

My first job as a Social Housing practitioner saw me in charge of just such a facility here in the UK and it gave women new hope and a chance to rebuild their lives and those of their children.

I am therefore hopefully that this type of facility becomes common practice in African countries too.

 

As usual your points of view are welcome

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This week I have been looking at the notion of money and poverty in Africa. The question I get asked often and one I would like to try and answer in this thread is  How do things work on the ground?.

I will approach it from the point of view of the women I work with and draw from my visit to Tanzania and Uganda in 2008.

Having left Omari I was collected from my hotel by Flotea one of the Ethnic Supplies textile producers. She was two hours late and I was unhappy about this until I heard her reasons.

Flotea

Flotea

Flotea is an amazing woman who left school at a very young age with no qualification to speak of this meant that she was excluded from formal employment and the only skills she had were embroidery skills.  she started out by making table linen and curtains for her own home, when her neighbours saw the quality of her work they asked if she could make home furnishings for them too and soon word had got out and she had a list of customers. She soon outgrew the space in her two room house, and had to extend it, as well as widening her range to include African tote bags Flotea’s idea has grown beyond her imagination and today she employees 30 women from the slums of Dar es Salaam. She shares what skills she has with women less fortunate than she is through workshops on textile production and design

Hippos cushions cover by Flotea

Hippos cushions cover by Flotea

After the initial pleasantries I asked her about her morning and it transpired that she wanted to expand her business so that she can take on more staff. In order to do so she wanted to move to larger premises built from scratch and for two years she had been trying to buy a piece of land for the new premises without much luck.

She had therefore decided to hand over the whole matter to a Solicitor and that meeting had over run and therefore she couldn’t get to me on time. I was truly shocked by what Flotea had just told me which seemed to validate part of what Omari had told me earlier that morning.

I could see clearly why it was important to have commercial systems streamlined and made more efficient to enable businesses to function more effectively. How on earth do you expand a business when acquiring a piece of  land for the new premises is a two year process and that is before the construction process begins? I told Flotea about my meeting with Omari and the general points we had covered especially the MONEY!

Flotea looked me in the eye and said “I pity any African who believes that some external person/outsider will come and resolve our problems, because I tell you what they will be waiting for a long time”

This is a strong statement and it raised another question in my mind. African women like Flotea are not expecting handouts and expect to work hard in order to get ahead all things being equal, so why do we in the West have this notion of giving more money?

As we continue the conversation about my morning Flotea is not very keen to be drawn on the issues of what happens to the AID money. She insists that the politicians have the answers to this question. She felt that institutions do not appear to have any interest in the small man on the street therefore she just minds her own business!

Flotea argued that the government merely plays lip service to women’s issues and that in fact unless women work together to share skills and resources they are unlikely to succeed. She told me that there are large numbers of women in Tanzania involved in textile production however there is no institution where these women can go and learn about textile and design. They instead rely on skills sharing where those who know teach those that do not. In her mind this is the one thing that would change life for most women especially the slum dwellers.

Other challenges included

  • Lack of IT and communication skills
  • Access to markets the lack of information means  they don’t always know what market demands are

I spent the rest of the afternoon and the best part of the evening with Flotea and her team and I taught them how to use email and PICASA Google’s photographs programme. this would enable them to share photos of their products with folk all over the world. Flotea appreciated this and as I left her she told me this is what we need people to come in and share what they know with us!

So there you have it folk, for women like Flotea, it really isn’t about the money! In the enxt post I will introduce another of the Ethnic Supplies textile producers whose view is somewaht different from that of Flotea. In the mean time if you have a view either way on any of the issues raised here please share it

Yes I know, a strange statement to make and over the next few days I will epxlain myself and hopefully it will make sense.

An awful lot of money has been poured into Africa by way of loans and grants but some African countries remain desperately poor and the debates as to why this is continue. For the purpose of this blog and the ones that will follow over the enxt few days, I have drawn on my experience as an African woman and by virtue of my work with African women involved in textile and handicraft production to explore some of the reasons why ending poverty is not simply about the money. The views I put forward are mine as well as those of the women I work with and others I come across during the of  course of my work.

What is it about the money?

We have all heard the saying “money isn’t everything”, Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar took this one step further when he said “money isn’t everything but it is up there with oxygen”. This is certainly very true of the many desperately poor and hunger stricken Africans. By the end of the series, I hope to have demonstrated that money is only part  of the equation

The one thing that most folk agree on is that AID in the form of money has failed because it doesn’t necessarily get to those that need it, it creates dependency and several reasons have been put forward as to why this is. There two reasons that really stand out in my mind’s eye one is VULTURE FUNDS the other is EXCLUSION

Vulture Funds

These funds work on the basis of buying up third world debt, knowing very well that the third world country is so poor and is unlikely to pay and when this become evident the “vultures” pounce.What is shocking about this is that these vultures are not breaking the law well not here in the UK anyway. There is however an irony in this because the third world country is unlikely to pay and the only way that country can pay is by dipping into the AID that is allocated to it for health, education, or food. Furthermore, AID is made available through our Tax system and as such we the Tax payers are putting money into these vultures’ pockets. So as you can see there are really circumstances when the money simply doesn’t get to the destined country let alone folk on the ground.

Exclusion

The desperately poor in Africa are amongst the most excluded people in the world. As such these folk do not know their rights or how to fight for them. The exclusion is wide spread and takes many forms, social, political, economic, health, education etc and when any part of a population or an individual is excluded in all those areas it becomes near impossible to eradicate poverty, disease, etc. It is also means that these folk are unable to take those in power to task on matters of accountability when it comes to AID.

The question one asks is whether it is best to give these people money or to empower them/address their exclusion. If giving more money isn’t necessarily the answer to ending poverty what is, and why aren’t govenments looking at different ways/models of ending poverty? Models that seek to bring about accountability, responsibility, sustainability and above all dignified ways out of poverty

I will explore the issue about money from the point of view of people on the ground in the next blog

The basis of my work at Ethnic Supplies is enabling women if Africa to lift themselves out of poverty. This work bring me in contact with heart wrenching situations especially women that have been abandoned by their husbands and been left holding the babies so to say.

Besi, Milka and Flo

Besi, Milka and Flo

On my last visit to Kabale SW Uganda I was introduced to the basket weavers in this picture. Besi’s  story was especially sad. She has nine children and her husband had just abandoned her for a younger woman. With no formal employment or land of her own, the situation was desperate until she found Edirisa a local NGO and through them she was able to access buyers such Ethnic Supplies.

Milka and Flo on the other hand, have husbands at home who have no formal employment, and earn money as casual labourers, but this money is never available for the family to use and is instead spent on beer. I asked the ladies how they use the money the earn from selling baskets and they told me that mostly on the children’s education and health care.

African women have a great deal of responsibility for the family and I strongly believe that they hold the key to economic development.

Earlier today I came across this article from Voice of America  that highlights America’s commitment to the education of African girls  through USAID and quotes Hillary Clinton’s article in a South African paper in which she too agrees that  empowering women is the key to global progress and prosperity

This is serious stuff folk, and I often wonder where I would be if my father like Besi’s husband had decided to abandon us, after all at the time of my birth girls were not afforded an education as they were expected to get married as early as 13 years of ages.  Organisations such as the Commonwealth Council work very hard to ensure that girls in the common wealth have access to a decent education and you may recall my post about their work earlier this year. If you missed it here it is

One thing that puzzles me however, is that most African men I have come across on my journey with Ethnic Supplies agree that women need to be helped to become financially independent as they are the core of family and community life, but why isn’t this message getting through to some of the men, like Bessie’s husband?

Do we need to re focus our efforts and resources on the men instead?

Mothering Sunday is almost upon us.  I would like to suggest some ethical gifts handmade by African mothers that your mother might appreciate. The thinking behind this is to enable African mothers to help themselves out of  poverty.

handmade basket from Madagascar

But please don’t take my word for it, if you can spare a few moments please take a look at this

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00j1z5w/The_One_Show_10_03_2009/

As the presenter say, a loan of £18 is not an awful lot of money to us in the West, in fact for some folk would not think twice on spending it on a bottle of wine.

The idea behind Ethnic Supplies is to ensure that African mothers such as the one featured in the show have access to a wider market for their goods than the odd passing tourist. when this happens jobs are created which in turn enables others to access education and health care for chidlren, it ends the cycle of dependancy.

Bianca

Bianca is a Mum from Weybridge and is modelling some of our clothing and fashion accessories from East Africa

Our best selling ethical fashion accessories  is the Hand made basket from Madagascar, this abg is so versatile that it can be sued for all sort of purpose, for more details please follow this link

http://www.ethnicsupplies.co.uk/shop/detail.asp?Product_ID=346