International Women's Day 2019
A couple of years ago, through a generous individual donor, Harvest Bridge gave Cing*, Lun*, and Lian* $540 each. These three women have taken that and have not only created a new life for their families, but are also lifting up other women with them.
All three women were living on less than $1 a day. They were the sole providers for their children, as their husbands were uninvolved at the time for different reasons.
$540 covered a stipend for basic medical expenses for their families, school fees for their children, simple household necessities, and equipment or supplies for their chosen business. At the time, Lun chose a large loom, Lian chose a small loom, as she had training with this kind of weaving, and Cing opened a small grocery store.
Within a few months, it became clear to Lun that the large loom was not the best option for her because she was too small to operate it for long hours without straining her body too much. She asked the expert weaver, Lian, to teach her how to use the small loom. Lian smilingly says that after only a couple of days Lun picked up on the difficult technique very quickly. So, Lun sold her large loom and purchased two smaller ones.
At the same time, Cing realized the grocery was not the best option for her, as she had young children and was constantly having the close the shop when she needed to care for them. So, she too learned from Lian and then sold her shop's supplies to purchase her own loom.
Two years later, all three now are weavers, weaving their culture's traditional designs and selling their products in a nearby city.
They combine their scarves and sell them every two weeks, taking turns to bring the goods into the city. None of them enjoy marketing and selling to individual buyers, so they found a business that buys their scarves in bulk. This means they can focus more on the work they love, and use their strengths.
They work together, out of Lun and Lian’s home. Cing works side by side with Lian, and Lun uses her second small loom to teach other women how to weave.
Lun has now taught weaving, free of charge, to 20 other women who travel from other villages to learn from her!
Since the three women work together, they are able to watch their children while working, and they can have flexibility in their schedule. They love that they can stop their work and take care of their families, and work at night because of the battery-powered light source we provided.
Lun says it was a good job to have while she was pregnant, as she could work and rest at her own pace. She enjoys being able to lay her baby down next to her while she works.
Cing says they do sometimes get bored doing their work, but laughingly adds that they keep each other company and entertain one another.
Their husbands provide very sporadically, but even without that small help, today all three women can provide for their families.
Their children are not just going to school, they’re going to quality schools. They are not just eating. They’re eating enough and nutritious food. Lian has nearly a year's worth of rice stored in her home, something that would have been unimaginable for her just two years ago. They are no longer living hand to mouth; they are able to save.
Cing, with her savings, is in the process of building a real home, as she still lives in a lean-to.
Lian built up her home and made it safer, with completed walls and a full roof.
Lun purchased a motorbike and is able to provide for her 17-year old daughter, an aspiring doctor, to go to a high-quality boarding school in a nearby city.
When asked what advice they would give to other women who were starting this kind of work, each separately say, "patience and faithfulness."
They explain that this type of work is difficult; that weaving is intricate and requires a lot of mistakes before getting better. Patience in yourself is key to being successful. They recognize their opportunity is something that many women do not have access to, and want to be faithful with it.
They want other women to have this chance to learn and provide for their families. Lun says,
"I want other women to have the chance we have had. Please give more women this same chance! We'll be happy to teach them!"
It's an honor to come alongside these women and many others, and to celebrate. Happy International Women's Day!
*Names changed for safety
Learn more about Women's Empowerment below!
With our women's empowerment projects, responsibility is always in the hands of each woman. They know their needs and talents best. They know what is best for their families. Sometimes that knowledge comes after some trial and error, as it did for Lun and Cing. The women who are chosen to receive support are all classified as extremely poor - living below $1.90 per day. In each country with these programs, a project coordinator helps the women as issues arise, so they never have to walk alone.
The total cost of our women's empowerment projects is $600 each. Each woman receives $540, and the additional $60 covers local and international administration.
Regardless of what vocation a woman chooses - weaving, pig rearing, cooking, etc. - we pair the business assets and training with additional funds to help with the woman's most urgent needs. For example, covering their children's school fees for several months, helping with medical bills, or house rent for part of the year.
We provide these additional funds because we, along with other antipoverty NGOs and experts, have learned that without holistic investment in the lives of extremely-poor women, these projects often fall flat. When a family emergency, unexpected school fees, or an unplanned pregnancy arises, business assets (loom, pig, sewing machine, etc.) are often sold for desperately-needed cash if the woman hasn't already begun turning a profit from her work. By providing one-time help for these additional needs, women can use those funds for emergencies instead of selling their business assets. It also means their first profits can more quickly be reinvested in their businesses or saved, instead being entirely used on basic necessities.
Our project budgets are designed and proven to provide holistic assistance and a reliable leg up on the journey out of extreme poverty. Thank you for your prayers and support, which make these projects possible!