Hello hello –
It has been a little over five weeks since arriving in Uganda and time is flying by! In my last post, I gave a brief overview of our project with Kitovu Mobile touching upon the two main aspects of our project, Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and the construction of sanitation infrastructure. Over the course of our GROW trip, we have had the opportunity to work closely with the SHGs: conducting out annual community assessment, participating in weekly SHG meetings, and even helping with the formation of two new SHGS!
Ann joining in on the SHGs Welcome Dance!
Working on our project since its creation, I am only now finally starting to get a grasp on the overall structure and the process of formation for the SHGs. I am blown away by the thought and effort that goes into these groups to ensure socioeconomic and health improvement through sustainable, community based solutions. In the next two posts, I am going to dive deeper into the SHG model. With a more in depth overview, I hope to give a better understanding to the well thought out structure of the SHG model as well as the detailed efforts that go into forming these crucial social networks.
For this post, I am going to focus on the overall structure of the SHGs model. The model is based on a hierarchical design consisting of three levels: SHGs, Cluster Level Associations (CLAs), and the Federation. Together, the entire network is known as the People’s Institution (PI). The overall mission of the institution is to address social and economic challenges faced on an individual, family, and community level.
The bottom and largest level is the SHGs themselves. Within 94 SHGs, there are 1394 village members with each group consisting of around 15-20 women. These groups are mainly formed based on geographical ties with the belief that women in the same area tend to face similar issues. At this level, groups meet on a weekly basis to discuss individual and family problems as well as to form an ongoing savings program. What are some of the problems these women discuss? Group discussions involve a variety of issues such as how to overcome banana weavels, an insect that threatens a major source of food and income for many village members. Or ways to lessen the almost daily affects of the common “flu”. Or solutions to their long walks to retrieve water for their families.
From each SHG, representatives are chosen to make up a larger group called Cluster Level Associations (CLAs) which form the second level of the PI. Across the network, there are 8 clusters that meet on a monthly basis. Their goal is to address bigger issues in the community and to work to mobilize resources. Various sub-committees are also formed under the CLAs such as the ones dedicated to the upkeep of the shallow wells just built!
Two representatives from each CLA are then selected to form the top level of the PI: the Federation. The Federation looks at broader aspect of the whole community, is the initial source of much of the information for the SHGs, and works to create awareness and advocate on behalf of the entire Institution. The hope is that with a group representing such a large group of people, they will have more power to create change even as far as on a governmental level.
Kitovu Mobile strongly believes that these communities already have the innovative and sustainable solutions to many of their problems. What they need most is technical and financial support to help make these solutions a reality. As a result, more and more responsibility is being left in the hands of the People’s Institution with GlobeMed at Northeastern and Kitovu Mobile providing essential resources, financial support, and important skills trainings. Every actor has a key role in achieving success, and it is only through thoughtful collaboration between all three parties that change can take place!
Isn’t it freaking awesome to be a part of this?!