Community microprojects are evolving
Supporting communities and women’s empowerment
A major strategy of the Mozambique Canada Maternal Health Project is to address the social and economic determinants of health. The Health Committees in each of our 20 partner communities organized microprojects that empower women, create better health and well being, and promote economic self sufficiency in the community. Many of these microprojects are focused on grinding mills (moajeiras) for processing corn into flour; others are about chicken and egg production, better latrine production, etc.
Over the years, with training and support, we have seen these projects evolve. In February of this year, we visited a sample of microprojects to hear directly from community members about the impact of the microprojects in their communities’ and families’ lives.
Maria, a member of the Savanguane, Morrumbene flour grinder microproject, shared the following with us: “This microproject affected me personally and as a member of the team. I was able to have the flour needed for my family. And as a member of the moageira (flour grinder) team it helped economically in lifting up the financial difficulties I was in. So, it was a support personally and economically.”
Other members agreed that the enterprises provide them and their families with additional revenue. Paneta and Sergio, from Chipongo, Massinga, stated that “members of the microproject team have bettered their lives. They have been able to buy soap and bread, and go to the hospital when needed and other things they need. It has helped support the family.” These changes mark a significant shift in lived experience from having very little family revenue available at any time to having small amounts put aside for emergencies like needing to access health services.
In addition, members said that the flour milled and the chicken and egg production provide food for the community. People do not have to travel so far to get food, which is a special benefit to the elderly.
The flour mill also provides women producers with the ability to have their flour ground closer to home, saving them the time, expense and risk of travel. The women participants spoke of feeling increasing respect for themselves and from others, as they took on more responsibility. Participants noted the benefit of learning new skills, some of which came from members of other communities.
We forgot we were weak
The project has organized “exchanges” where members of the more long-standing microprojects visit the new ones to share their experience. A community in Zavala (south), for example, had a newly established flour mill, but the women were uncomfortable with operating the machine. They said, “using machines is ok for the women in the north, but here in the south, our women are weak.” But when the women from Vilankulo (north) came for the exchange and modelled how to use the machines, the women in Zavala became comfortable using them. “We forget we were weak,” they said.
Part of the community fabric
The microprojects benefit the community in many ways and are seen as a valuable part of the community fabric. For example, some microprojects provide the health committee with funds to support health expenses for the community (local ambulance expenses, in one case, and a fund for car rental for women delivering, in another).
The village leader in Chambula, Zavala drew attention to the benefits that microprojects offer their youth. “Our youth are the key to the future – the support of the young is very important. We called the youth to work with us. Without youth, things will not advance. They will participate directly and produce bread for the community. We have to incentivize them. Make a microproject to give them the enthusiasm to participate. We will all work together – village, committees of health and the young.”
From the perspective of the community, the microenterprises bring economic, health and social benefits. They are integrated into the community’s plan, through its health committee, to address the social determinants of health, including women’s empowerment. From the project’s perspective, in addition to the benefits to the community, the microprojects give the project leverage, fostering interest and collaboration where a more conventional community health program might not.