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Women in remote Caribbean island honoured for effective rural development activities

Page history last edited by Rosemary 12 years, 8 months ago

Fancy is a small remote community of 240 women and 170 men living in 140 households, situated at the northern most tip of St. Vincent, a volcanic island that is the largest island in the chain that makes up the nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The community’s remote location and the women’s socially disadvantaged position forced them to become creative in transforming the lives of their fellow community members.

Through the Fancy Community Help Group (FCHG), they are putting into place a model of rural development that is inclusive, equitable, self-reliant and sustainable, and encouraging men to participate fully in community activities. There is no bank, so the women have developed an indigenous banking system that suits their situation.

The Group started in 1997 when several small organizations, including churches and sports clubs, came together to form one community organization with initially 22 women members. After examining a series of alternative ventures, they decided that pig rearing presented the least risks and least inputs in terms of capital. When the original piglets reproduced at maturity, they were distributed first to the neediest, then alphabetically.

Once household food needs were met, pigs started being sold on the external market, thus generating additional income, part of which was invested in social activities in Fancy, like installing electricity in the preschool or food hampers for senior citizens.

In the next stage, they created a revolving loan scheme, somewhat  like the Grameen Bank system (although the group had never heard of it -  this was their own invention). The project has enabled the Group to provide emergency assistance to members, facilitate access to medical care, enable members to invest in their children’s education and develop income earning ventures such as farming.

Over the years, the FCHG has been involved in a large variety of community outreach projects funded from the collective coffer. Women members have acquired self-confidence and significant leadership skills, and have committed to focus training activities on the poorest members of the community, with the aim that no woman would be left behind.

In 2008, the Fancy Community Help Group was honoured with the Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life awarded by the Women’s World Summit Foundation. In all, 13 laureates were honoured by the WWSF in 2008. The Prize draws international attention to women's contributions to sustainable development, household food security and peace, and helps them gain recognition and support for their community work.

 

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