Connect : Connect March 2012
15 Top left: Mama's parade through the streets to raise awareness for fnancial inclusion, Microfnance Week 2011 Top right: Tradition is still well respected in Vanuatu as a VANWODS member proudly wears her custom face paint at Microfnance Week 2011 Inset: Kristy with local counterparts Kristy Nowland Country Vanuatu Assignment Business Development Services Advisor Host Organisation Vanuatu Women's Development Scheme (VANWODS) Microfinance Australian Partner Organisation The Foundation for Development Cooperation | www.fdc.rog.au mind. Jennifer, Esther, Marriane and Karen are all members of VANWODS in a centre on the fringe of Luganville, a small town on the island of Espiritu Santo. Their motivation for joining VANWODS was to help their families, through accessing loans for school fees, to make repairs on their homes and to start small businesses. Jennifer as centre chief wrote to the local municipality to ask for a small parcel of land to be granted for a centre house and road market. The women used money from their Centre fund to build a small house with enough space to hold VANWODS meetings and to sell food. The women cook a variety of food in the morning and sell it during lunch time – and with a reputation of being one of the best road stalls in Santo, the food runs out within an hour! The women split the proceeds and use this to make savings, repay loans and supplement their husbands’ and other household income. When I asked the women about the greatest benefts of membership with VANWODS, they said it is not simply fnancial gains. They have earned respect and acknowledgement from the wider community for running a good business, bringing confdence to their lives. They have also learnt valuable skills running the business and negotiating with the municipality for the allocation of the land. Lastly, VANWODS provided a women’s only environment to network and discuss business ideas openly and free from intimidations of customary practice. My role with VANWODS is to work with members in order to increase economic activity and income earning opportunities. ‘Malekula Markets’ is an ongoing project I have developed after an extensive period of community consultation. Malekula is a remote island, often dubbed as the ‘garden of paradise’ due to its lush natural resources – pineapples, watermelons, oranges, nuts, tomatoes, and mangoes – too many to list here. However, being remote creates obstacles for communities to trade on an inter-island and international market. The Malekula Market links the communities from remote parts of the island with the Department of Quarantine, Livestock and Forestry in the capital of Port Vila, increasing the potential market dramatically. Each market day involves several communities in one area and has the potential to earn the communities around 1 million vatu (approx AUD$10,000) – certainly enough to send children to school, acquire water tanks and reinvest back into their businesses. To create some perspective on the impact this will have on these communities, it is interesting to compare VANWODS members compulsory savings which are just 200 vatu per week (AUD$2) – savings following the markets will easily be in the thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of vatu for some members. My challenge now is to ensure that the Malekula Markets are sustainable and continue long after my assignment ends. VANWODS has helped many of its members to become economically empowered over the years, building confdence for women now described as the backbone of the Vanuatu small business economy. It is the accumulation of empowerment and good news stories such as these, passed from mother to daughter, father to son, discussed at church and at family gatherings, which will expedite the winds of change for the women of Vanuatu and their journey to gender equality.
Connect Magazine July 2012 Edition
Connect November 2011