Kenya + 1 more

GROOTS India-Africa learning exchange

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February 15th to 20th 2009
Mumbai & Osmanabad, Maharashtra, India

"I am confident with what I have learnt. Before I though that HIV was something that would lead to death. Now as a community leader, I feel like I can take action on the issue. In the next three months we will create a plan to move forward", said Kasthuri, an exchange participant from Tamil Nadu, India

On the 14th of February 2009, nine grassroots women from four African nations arrived in Mumbai to begin a five day learning exchange in Maharashtra state, India. This exchange was facilitated and supported by Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) and GROOTS International in order to encourage knowledge sharing and transfer of effective practices in health, community led HIV/AIDS initiatives, savings and credit groups, and livelihoods.

The African participants came from four grassroots organizations - GROOTS Kenya, Uganda Community Based Organization for Child Uganda Community Based Organization for Child Welfare (UCOBAC), the International Women's Communication Centre (IWCC) Nigeria and Ntankah Village Women Common Initiative Group, Cameroon - which together come under the umbrella of GROOTS Africa. On the Indian side, over 20 participants were the grassroots leaders of women's federations from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu who partner with NGOs SSP (in all 3 states) and Covenant Centre for Development (CCD, in Tamil Nadu).

The first day of the exchange was based on saving and credit groups, with participants visiting the Yedshi village to meet with members of 3 different savings and credit groups and engage direct with group functioning and structure. The following morning was dedicated to exploring health initiatives undertaken by grassroots women in India and Africa, with the afternoon spent exchanging experiences with women and a number of key community figures in the village of Katagoen.

The third day of the exchange was focused on livelihoods and federation/network structures, with the morning took place in Gondhalwadi village, wherein participants met with women community leaders and micro-entrepreneurs and learnt about village livelihood mapping and the latter half of the day took place in the workshop hall in Osmanabad where grassroots women presented their livelihoods initiatives and enterprise strategies. On the fourth day of the exchange a workshop was held wherein all women participants were given an opportunity to reflect and self-assess their learning over the past few days, identify and critically discusses core practices and initiatives which they planned to implement in their communities back home, and provide feedback on the exchange.

Through this exchange, the African participants learnt about savings and credit activity and how to establish a system of regular payment and saving and record keeping. They also learnt about establish a health insurance fund, create community relationships with health services, and how to form a federation structure/network. The Indian women in turn learnt about community based initiatives undertaken by African women in relation to HIV/AIDS and orphans/children and about home based care giving networks. Both the women in India and Africa have now returned to their communities and are ready to implement new strategies and methods of development, by drawing upon the shared skills and experience of grassroots women they meet through this exchange.