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Increasing women’s roles in household decision-making in Mozambique

Involve the entire family in order to achieve gender equality


iDE Hero Art MZ Jambo Family 21X9 Rh

Berta Jambo and her family. (Photo by Alice Lee/iDE)

Berta Jambo attended iDE’s training in August 2018 to learn how to become an ADA. Part of her education was cash-flow analysis: how to list the cash outlays that you are making to purchase products along with the income that you receive when you resell. While this kind of record-keeping may seem basic, many budding entrepreneurs have never kept these types of records to understand what amount of money is needed to operate their business. When she returned home after the training, she informed her husband that she would need to keep more of her profit on hand in order to be able to fulfill her new contract as an ADA supplying vegetables to the local hospital. Upset at what he was hearing, he immediately called the iDE coordinator, even though it was 10 p.m., to find out just what it was we were teaching his wife.

Culture clash

In Mozambique, the husband is head of the household. Traditionally, that means he is in charge of the money and makes all the decisions alone. In an agricultural family, that often means women and children contribute only labor, with little to no say in how family money is invested. While husbands are often excited about the prospect of their wives earning more income by becoming entrepreneurs, when it comes to the profits, they expect to continue to control where that money is spent. This is a basic challenge iDE faces with expanding women’s roles in agriculture.

In Berta’s case, her husband had decided to build a new house for their family of seven: himself, Berta, four children from the ages of three to ten which includes one they adopted from a relative, and his brother. Their current home has only three rooms; the new one will be two stories with five rooms. He has the foundation and walls up but needs Berta’s income to continue making progress.

Berta and her husband stand in front of their unfinished house. Berta's husband needs her income to continue to make progress on the construction, but she also needs that income to continue to build her business.

iDE PC MZ Jambo House 3X2 Rh

Berta’s new contract with the hospital is to provide them with fresh vegetables: every week she needs to supply them with 50kg of onions, 50kg of dried beans, 3 crates of tomatoes, and 200 heads of cabbage. To do so, she visits smallholder farmers and fronts the money to purchase from them. The hospital pays her at the end of the month. If she doesn’t have enough cash capital to purchase from her suppliers, she won’t be able to fulfill her contract.

Farming as a family business

iDE encourages agricultural households to work together. Cash flow is a particular thorny issue for people who live in poverty, who are used to spending money when they have it rather than conserving for the future or planning their monthly expenses. By emphasizing the need to keep records and track transactions, iDE builds their capacity and understanding of cash and savings.

Since the training, Berta has joined two savings groups: one of 72 women and another of 79 members with 49 women. Every week, she deposits a fixed amount that builds her personal savings and enables her to access a loan from the group. For example, if she has 2000 MT saved, the group will loan her that amount plus 50% (3000 MT total) for one month with only 10% interest. She can either pay back the principal and interest at the end of the month or only the interest extend the loan. When compared to the terms offered by the local microfinance institution, Opportunity Bank, which charges 50% interest on its loans, it is easy to understand why she wants to build her savings this way.

The conflict between Berta and her husband has identified a possible new strategy for iDE’s gender equity initiative: is the answer to invite both husband and wife to future trainings so that they learn together the need to keep records to understand their family business needs? As iDE’s training has increasingly become more interactive, with the inclusion of role-play and dialogue between participants, this inclusion of the entire family may help resolve some existing cultural barriers.

Facilitating the future

Berta’s iDE training has given her new planning skills. In addition, the certificate documenting the iDE training she received enabled her to prove to her hospital client that she had the skills required to be able to fulfill her agreement with them. If she continues to build her savings, iDE may be able to assist her in applying for a KIVA loan to increase her working capital to be used to purchase inputs for resell or increase her transportation capacity by purchasing a four-ton truck. While her husband remains somewhat reluctant, Berta’s ability to increase her income may overcome his skepticism and create a new decision-making dynamic in the family.

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