Isolated, impoverished and forgotten. Salaam Wanita women face special challenges.
We might not realise it, but low confidence is a huge barrier with detrimental effects. It leads women to retreat from society into their homes. Their isolation exacerbates their poverty and their poverty feeds back into low confidence in a vicious cycle.
Baskets are a good option because they help break the cycle. These women coordinate among themselves so weavers have an automatic network of friends to bring them out of isolation. Salaam Wanita supports the women at every stage of the process so that they do not get overwhelmed and discouraged.
Salaam Wanita women must also be able to work from home. Some are single mothers working to support their families, while others care for their disabled children. Some have chronic illnesses that leave them too weak or tired to work long hours for low pay. They are under-educated and have no other skills, leaving them vulnerable to exploitative factory work.
Weaving baskets from home allows the women to multi-task. They are able to balance working from home and taking care of their families. This is essential for the women to stick with the project.
Risk aversion is also a barrier. Remember that Salaam Wanita women live day-to-day, with no income left over for saving. Itâ€™s not hard to understand why they do not want to risk what little they have.
Weaving baskets requires very little capital. The baskets are made from recycled paper that is easily accessible and free! The women do not even have to pay for the training because Salaam Wanita offers it for free or they can learn the skill from other members who are willing to pass on the skills.
Finally, Salaam Wanita women are generally afraid of using ICT (Information Communication Technology). They think that it is for the young or for men, so they fall into the digital divide. Many do not have access to or the skills to use computers, Internet, or fax machines.
In order to overcome this challenge, Salaam Wanita relies on easy-to-use technology. Mobile-phones are the first step. Women use mobile-phones to stay in touch with each other as well as to coordinate their orders. Believe it or not, a majority of them picked up mobile-phones for the first time when they joined Salaam Wanita. They now earn respect from their children, family members and neighbours; a much needed boost for their self esteem.
Salam Wanita adresses all these barriers by designing an imcome-generation project to help women help themselves.