Reinvigorating Women's Groups in Léogâne
By Hayley Fallon, CNP Communications Fellow
Monitrice Marie Chantale convenes with her women’s group on the first Thursday of every month. As the last of the ladies trickle in, Madame Chantale greets everyone and leads them in singing “Fanm yo se wozo nou ye” - as Madame Chantale explains it, women are cattails in that they bend in the wind to the point where you’d believe them broken, but the next day they’ll stand as tall and robust as ever. Women are resilient: Haitian women, exceedingly so.
The first portion of the meeting is dedicated to a review of how to treat water and the importance of water treatment in disease prevention. During the review, they share ideas on how to educate their neighbors on the matter and how to overcome barriers to changing health behaviors. One woman has a neighbor who believes treating water has made her sick in the past, so she won’t consider doing so now. As a figurehead of her community and with over fifteen years as a monitrice under her belt, Madame Chantale plans to visit the neighbor to discuss healthy WASH behaviors.
The women move on to discuss the line of credit they’ve established, where each contributes money to a “bank” that any group member can borrow from to start up business projects and fund any other initiative approved by the group. With a roll of her eyes and just a hint of a smile, Madame Chantale dismisses one woman’s playful request for funds to invest in a girlfriend for her socially inept son.
With no new requests this month, the women check in on ongoing projects funded by the line of credit. One woman uses credit to travel to the nearest open market, in Tombegateau, and bring back rice and beans to sell in the village. Another travels with her and sells passionfruit and plantains at the market.
For the mothers of K-Foumi, this women’s group has been vital. They’re able to cultivate personal connections with their neighbors, learn about nutrition and WASH, and, through the economic opportunities provided by the line of credit, many are able to feed their children.
Reinvigorating Women’s Groups across Léogâne
With the support of our Community Programs Manager, Rose Elene, our monitrices have recently re-upped their efforts to create and strengthen women’s groups in the communities they serve. The main objective of such groups is to empower and engage communities to identify community problems and needs as well as resources to brainstorm and implement solutions.
In CNP’s 20 years of service in Léogâne, we’ve seen these groups:
promote sustainable use of natural resources
increase access to information for all members of the community
provide opportunities for economic advancement
improve health practices and well-being for each community member
Solutions are sustainable when they come from within a community. The cost of living in Haiti is rising. The strength of the gourde is falling. Incomes are stagnating. A bag of rice that once cost 150 gourdes now costs 250. A bottle of cooking oil that was 250-325 gourdes can’t be bought for less than 600 gourdes. A bag of beans has shot up from 150 gourdes to 500 or more. Each year as we enter the summer dry season (June through September), we see a spike in admission to our treatment programs.
In Léogâne today, women's groups and community health groups are more important than ever. These proactive interventions create a greater sense of community and foster mutual support and encouragement. As facilitators, we rejoice in getting these groups off the ground and watching as they become self-sufficient, improving the relationships and lives of members and the greater community.
You can donate to our efforts to create and support women’s groups and community health groups across Léogâne at www.cnphaiti.org/donate.