Empowerment of the Truly Poor - 2
02 / 1994
Enterprise is an economic activity which innovates, accesses credit generates investment capital identifies and reaches markets uses technology and manages staff. Primary NGOs provide credit to small enterprises because of the difficulties faced by the rural poor in getting formal credit as well as their eternal debt to money lenders.
NGO involvement in small enterprise development aims to devise and implement interventions that will reduce poverty. This is common to the entire NGO movement in the South.
NGOs target women also as the worst off in the group because of their commitment to the family. Any resources result in health and food and improved family welfare. As for enterprise its success depends on womens ability to access finance technology marketing all of which is clearly beyond their scope. If NGOs genuinely want to empower women they will have to offer not only credit but a wider set of support services. This may be because of donor bias. Women in development are a significant basis of funding but mere funding cannot bring about a significant change. Most womens enterprises remain necessarily home based, rarely growth oriented or offering employment to others.
Credit alone is not enough. For it is assumed that the supply will create the demand. Additional inputs of marketing and technology are required. Without this the product will be low technology for a local market. NGOs themselves have a skill shortage. IRED provides the entire package through its intervention, Peoples Rural Development Association (PRDA)as in the case of non traditional handicrafts taught to women in the villages of Puttalam and Gampaha in western Sri Lanka.
By arranging peasant exchange programmes IRED showed our peasants how the poor in other countries used waste materials that could be transformed into attractive products through the application of simple technologies that the poor can afford.
For example by extracting fibre from the trunk of a banana tree using simple technology this waste material was processed and the peasants taught to turn out beautiful table mats, handbags and toys.
In the same way village women from Puttalam were trained in the skill of utilising pol matolu a fibrous water material covering the upper branch of a coconut tree and by an easily adaptable technological process making colourful file covers dockets mobiles and table ware which find a ready sale locally and abroad.
NGOs by identifying suitable clients (women)and providing them with a total package of support can help in improving the quality of life sustainable income and fringe benefits for the least advantaged group rural women.
BYNON, Radhika, IRED GENERAL SECRETARIAT COLOMBO OFFICE, Support Services for Development (pvt)ltd. Sri Lanka, 1993/04 (SRI LANKA)
IRED Asie (Development Support Service) - 562/3 Nawala Road - Rajagiriya - Sri Lanka Tel : 94 1 695 481 - Fax : 94 1 - 688 368