A Platform for Change

In a Burkinabé village, there exists a large green machine connected to a belt with a blue cone on top. Women of the Rel Wendé savings group bought it over a year ago with their collective savings to help them more efficiently mill the grain their businesses produce annually. It has become a symbol of pride for all the residents of Pinou. So much so that when Trickle Up staff visited in late 2012, they were eager to show us just how important the multi-function platform is to their lives.

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My name is Mahiyam Dav and I’m the director of Trickle Up’s Africa program. Recently I traveled to Burkina Faso and heard a remarkable story of how Trickle Up changes lives and entire communities.

The group we visited in Pinou was composed of 25 members, and the name they chose in Pinou was Rel Wende, which in Mohe means “leaning on God”. They told us that when they started other people in the community were very skeptical and so they felt like they needed to choose a name that would help them get the courage and the strength that they needed in order to carry on with their work. The savings groups are a critical part of our program. When they meet, they save a small amount of money. After a few months they can use that money to give loans to members who need to expand their business. When we arrived in Pinou, the group had been formed about a year or a year and a half prior. We noticed that there was a new building that had a big sign that read “Plate Forme Multifonctionnelle de Pinou”. They led us to the building and the entire village walked with us to the Multifunction platform.

When we entered the building, the machine was operating so it was quite noisy. Some of the women had gone ahead to prepare the machine and show us how it worked. They were very professional; they were wearing hairnets and had a uniform, and outside of the building all of the kids from the village were watching through the windows.

So the way it works is that people from the village can bring their bowl or bags of grain to one of the women operating the machines and they would put it inside a cone shaped part and then the grain would be grinded and come out in the form of really fine flour that can then be used for cooking. Women charge a small amount of money for other people in the village, then that amount of money is invested in their savings and credit fund that is then used to provide loans to members of the group or the members of the community.

At the end of the visit after we left the mill, the women started again dancing and singing and there was this big, beautiful, very joyful celebration. A lot of members of the community have told us that they now regard this group of women as a very important group of the community. They inspire other women to try and do the same.

To see women who were among the poorest and most marginalized in their communities, to see them grow and succeed and gain confidence and feel empowered is something that is very inspirational for me.

Every time I travel to a village and I see even just one group or one woman who changed her life, I see that the work is critical and important and that one village at a time, one woman at a time, we can change the lives of many women in the world.

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