Women’s associations Women’s associations were established in the geographic zone covered in the first year in response to greater issues affecting women, notably higher population movements and more sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and hostage taking; in the other project areas, CRC considered their role to be covered by the Radio Clubs. Like the micro-finance groups, the members were a mix of ex-combatant wives and those affected by conflict. However, instead of receiving loans they were given training in skills, notably basket weaving and baking, and were given some starter kits to help them get going. The training was accompanied by sensitisation sessions on the importance of peaceful cohabitation, and this was the first of the positive aspects to be mentioned by the group: others cited were the quality and motivation of the trainers.
This project aimed to improve lives of women affected by conflicts and wives of ex-combattants through socio-economic activities in order to :
- Improved dignity and standing in their households and the community;
- Improved attitude and psychological wellbeing – feeling more stable;
- Helping them develop income-generating activities such as hairdressing, baking and raising goats;
- Ability to contribute to household costs including schooling, medical expenses, better diets and house improvements;
- Strengthened relationship with their husband and more participation in running the household.
In all there were 275 women, composed of a mix of wives of ex-combatants and women affected by conflict, placed into 11 solidarity groups of 25 members each; each group was divided into five sub-groups of five. After training members were able to apply for loans and once all subgroup members had repaid successfully, they could go on to take three more loans, each bigger than the previous one. The amounts envisaged for the first loans were $20 (and $30 for ex-combatants, had it expanded to them). However in DRC this was clearly insufficient, so it was increased to $100 rising to a maximum of $250 for the fourth loan.
The system of loan books and frequent visits worked well, with a good loan repayment rate of just over 80%, but there was a turnover in membership totalling 34% of women leaving their group. The large majority of these were replaced by new members; however they reported that they felt ‘second-rate’ compared to the original members. CRC registered a number of reasons for the departure of group members: difficulties repaying loans (sometimes because of security issues preventing movement); sickness or death; relocation; and insufficient capital for giving larger and prompt repeat loans.