Education Knowledge

October 2002

Compendium of experiences of Italian NGOs in basic education for rural people

by Marina Emiliani
in collaboration with Lavinia Gasperini
Extension, Education and Communication Service
FAO Research, Extension and Training Division

Part 2 of 3

1 2 3

Secondary and Vocational Education

TITLE "Family schools in Bahia, Brazil rural area"
COUNTRY: Brazil, (South America)
FOCUS: Literacy and Numeracy. Agriculture
NGO: OPAM - Opera di Promozione dell'Alfabetizzazione nel Mondo

Via Pietro Cossa, 41 - 00193 ROMA - Tel. 06/3203317 - 3203318 - 3203320 (06/3203261fax)
E-mail: Home page:
LOCAL PARTNER: AECOFABA (Associationes Escuela Familia Bahia)

The State (region) of Bahia, in the north east of Brazil, is classified as a poor rural area. The economy is mainly based on agriculture, but also on chemical, petroleum and pharmacological industries.

In recent years, public authorities have planned development projects for cities, with little investment in rural areas. Despite the fact that the farmer is the "back-bone" of Brazil, he still feels left out of the country's development programs. This results in the migration of rural people to the city in the hope of finding a better life.

AECOFABA (Associationes Escuela Familia Bahia), assisted by O.P.A.M. and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gives support to the "Family Schools" project in the State of Bahia.

AECOFABA is a civil association, founded in 1979, which takes the lead in supporting approximately 30 family schools. The project manages and co-ordinates school programs, enrolls teachers and guarantees didactic materials.

The Government in Brazil only makes provisions for the first four years of a child's education. The Family School gives farmers' children the opportunity to study in an economically affordable situation and the Government legally recognizes the school.

The Family School represents a home, school and community. Its aim is to educate youngsters to follow the customs and culture of their family and community. The schools are always located in rural areas and accept young farmers from different parts of the country.

The Family School's special approach is the "rotation" of work and school. Students alternatively spend 2 weeks studying at school and 2 weeks working in their home, thus ensuring that they are not totally separated from their natural habitat and family. The rotation of school and home benefits families, as youngsters can continue to help their families with household chores and daily duties. Schools also benefit, as the rotation of home and school ensures that a large number of students are able to be trained.

Students spend three years studying practical and theoretical subjects. When they return to their rural communities they have a good knowledge of agriculture and social issues. The school curriculum includes humanist science, mathematics and agricultural matters. During the afternoon, students spend three hours on theoretical lessons in the school's orchard and vegetable garden. There, they learn various techniques, such as: how to sow, cultivate, harvest, breed small animals and bee keeping.

A priority of the school is to encourage sustainable agriculture and the conservation of the environment and natural resources. The students study soil control, water preservation and careful energy use. The school also makes use of the goods they produce to feed students, buying only extra provisions required at the local market. At the end of each two-week school session, the cost of purchased goods is calculated and divided between the students. This sum is the only amount the students have to pay for their schooling.

TITLE "Secondary and Vocational Education for Girls"
COUNTRY: Benin, (Africa)
FOCUS: Integrated

Via Ugo Foscolo, 32 - 39012 MERANO
TEL 0473/ 44 64 00 E-MAIL: GMM@DNET.IT
LOCAL PARTNER: Congragazione delle Figlie del Cuore di Maria

The Merano Missionary Group has been active in western Africa for 30 years.

The Organization works on structural projects (e.g., boring wells, catchment basins) and professional training projects. One of its projects has undertaken the planning and implementing of four domestic management training centers for women in Benin (Bohicon, Paracou, Bembereke) and Burkina Faso (Koudougou). The program aims to assist girls who have no possibility of following regular studies. It works with 500 young women between 14/15 and 18 years of age, who come from different rural areas in Benin and Burkina Faso.

The program develops methodologies to improve knowledge in the fields of nutrition and health (especially for children), nutrition self-sufficiency and the sale of agricultural products. It also provides courses in dressmaking, cooking, kitchen gardening and the breeding of small animals. The duration of the whole training period is four years, but a certificate of attendance is provided after three.

The training centers survive thanks to the agricultural production provided by the students. A very important aspect of the program is the provision of clean water from wells, established by the Merano Missionary Group during the past 30 years. One of the main activities of the Group is the boring of wells in different pre-Sahelian areas (more than 500 to date), and the establishment of teaching centers for the local population. The Group also provides training courses for girls on the use of clean water from wells. The e aim is the dissemination of information to the population on the need to request the construction of wells and catchment basins.

At the end of the course, the girls go back to their villages and use their skills in hygiene, agriculture, small trade and handicrafts.

TITLE "Agricultural School for young students in Chikuni, Zambia"
COUNTRY: Zambia, (Africa)
FOCUS: Agriculture, Literacy and Numeracy
NGO: Ce.L.I.M. - Centro Laici Italiani per le Missioni

P.zza Fontana, 2 - 20122 MILANO (S. legale)
Via S. Calimero, 11/13 - 20122 MILANO - Tel. 02/58316324 - 58317810 (02/58317213 fax)
E-mail: Home page:
LOCAL PARTNER: Monze Diocese

The Monze district, in Zambia, is a region with no industrial development and poor agricultural conditions; therefore, agriculture cannot guarantee sufficient welfare and employment for the local population.

Ce.L.I.M. in co-operation with the Diocese of Monze, set-up an agricultural school for young people in order to provide them with the qualified and specialized skills needed to improve agricultural production in the area.

The project consists of two stages. The first is a theoretical course aimed at teaching young people new techniques on agriculture and breeding. The second is a concrete course, which puts the theoretical lessons into practice. The courses have resulted in the development of a production unit by the students. The unit is used as a sample to develop private units for students, and ensures economic support for the school's activity. Thirty students participate in the course every year.

The school teaching supports sustainable agriculture and includes: horticulture, the control of fungiform pathologies, and damage caused by insects; the breeding of bovines, hogs, goats and chickens, the anatomy and pathology of animals; the prevention and care of animal illness, techniques for soil care and erosion; the methodology of storage, bookkeeping and techniques for crop selling.

The project lasts three years, after which the population is expected to continue the activity started during the course under the supervision of the Diocese of Monze.

TITLE: "Socio-economic development of tribal people in Assam"
COUNTRY: India (Asia)
FOCUS: Integrated
NGO: AIFO - Associazione Italiana Amici di Raoul Follereau

Via Borselli 4-6, 40135 Bologna, Italia, Tel: +39.051-43.34.02 Fax: +39.051-43.40.46
Email: Homepage:

The project is based in Assam State, in the Northeastern part of India. One of the major activities of the project is to give assistance to tribal people who are exploited by local money-lenders. When tribal people receive small loans for the lands mortgaged, money-lenders take the greater part of their crop. Once people fall into the trap, they are not able to redeem the mortgaged land.

Poor education facilities and inaccessible schools create another serious problem in the area. School attendance is very low, with high rates of illiteracy and school dropouts. In the project area, the main health problems are linked to endemic diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, while the under-five mortality rate is very high due to diarrhoea and malnutrition.

The project works through the establishment of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in the tribal villages. Educational coaching centers have been established in the tribal villages. These centers are managed by trained local personnel (coaching persons), selected by the villagers. Their function is to organize after-school support lessons, to monitor the regular presence of teachers and to support the teaching procedures in the villages' Government schools. The project also supports two schools (through the provision of books, clothes, learning material and fees), one in Manikbond with 255 students (at the St Joseph's Church), and the second one in a village (Pipla) with 40 students. 20 coaching centres are active in the villages, providing equal opportunities for education to more than 600 children. The project's target area now covers 30 villages. Currently, there are 75 functioning SHGs. Since 1998, a total of 280 acres of mortgaged land has been redeemed from money-lenders (with a 50% contribution from SHGs members), and 429 persons have benefited.

With regards to health care, activities include awareness-raising about disease prevention activities (informal meetings and training courses on the basic principles of Primary Health Care and the role of traditional medicine) in order to reduce the mortality rates among children under five years of age. The project is also planning to start community-based rehabilitation activities for children and adults with disabilities living in the area.

TITLE "Secondary School in Oventic, Chiapas"
COUNTRY: Mexico (Central America)
FOCUS: Literacy and Numeracy

P.le Gambara, 7/9 - 20146 MILANO - Tel. 02/4075165 (02/4046890 fax)
E-mail: Home page:

In Chiapas few secondary schools exist, and those that do are all situated in the main city. Young people living in the country have great difficulties studying because of the high cost of transportation, board and lodging, books and clothes. In addition, in some periods of the year, youngsters have to help their families with agricultural work. Teachers often do not know the local languages, therefore they teach and speak only Spanish, disregarding Mayan history and traditions. As a result, 30% of the population over 15 years of age is illiterate.

The Mexican constitution guarantees local people the right to fully develop their indigenous culture and to organize their lives freely. In 1995, MANI TESE started a secondary school project with the aim of training bilingual teachers for primary schools.

MANI TESE started building the school in 1996. It now contains 4 classrooms , two dormitories, a refectory and kitchen, and a large library with books donated from all over the world. The students, nearly 200 males and females, are chosen from among the best primary school pupils. Those who come from the country live at the school, while their families provide their food (beans and tortillas). The project provides not only theoretical studies but also practical experience in every day life and work. School activities commenced on the 10th of April 2000, the commemoration day of Emiliano Zapata.

The creation of an orchard has been planned, to teach students new agricultural techniques, to provide for their food supply and to sell their crops in local markets. In the near future, the project will include dressmaking, carpentry, shoemaking and tortilla production. This project aims to educate local people, while respecting their cultural, social, economic and religious identities.

Non Formal Education (Children, Youth, Women, Adult)

TITLE: "Promoting inclusive education for children with disabilities in Chandpur"
COUNTRY: India, (Asia)
FOCUS: Literacy and Numeracy
NGO: AIFO - Associazione Italiana Amici di Raoul Follereau

Via Borselli 4-6, 40135 Bologna, Italia, Tel: +39.051-43.34.02 Fax: +39.051-43.40.46
Email: Homepage:

Summary of activities: the main component of the project is based in Chandpur village in the Haryana state of India, about 20 km from the national capital, New Delhi. The project collaborates with a residential centre of San Joe Puram, managed by the Catholic Church, St. Joseph Service Society. The centre provides homes for children with different kinds of disabilities.

The project consists of a school situated in this centre, where disabled children study along with non-disabled children from neighbouring villages. The school, a residential teaching centre, trains teachers from different parts of the country on inclusive education and integration of disabled children in ordinary schools. The project aims in various ways to facilitate the access of disabled children to formal education. The project also has a resource centre, which collects and shares experiences on inclusive education from South Asia (India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives). The pioneering and innovative experiences from the region are collected at the resource centre and made accessible tothe public, teachers, scholars, organizations and institutions. Part of the material collected is published in a regular newsletter. All of the reports, journals and experiences on inclusive education will be made available on the web page of the project:

TITLE "Pre-School Education for children 4-6 years old in Asia"
COUNTRY: Bangladesh (Asia)
FOCUS: Literacy
NGP: OPAM - Opera di Promozione dell'Alfabetizzazione nel Mondo

Via Pietro Cossa, 41 - 00193 ROMA - Tel. 06/3203317 - 3203318 - 3203320 (06/3203261 fax)
E-mail: Home page:
LOCAL PARTNER: Rural Vision (Social Voluntary Organization)

This project aims to increase primary school enrolment, parents' awareness about their children's future schooling and to achieve education for all.

"Rural Vision" is a Christian social voluntary organization for human development in Bangladesh. Its aim is to promote the socio-economic and cultural development and dignity of the rural underprivileged, especially the poorest people of Khulna and Satkira Districts. In these districts, education and literacy rates are low: male 33.2% and female 17.6%. There is a lack of awareness on the importance of education, which has thus contributed to the low literacy rate, increased polygamy, divorce, early marriage and physical humiliation.

O.P.A.M. in cooperation with Mr. Serafin J.Boiragi, the Director of Rural Vision, set-up five pre-schools in rural villages, in which 150 children are taught every year. After three years, the children are admitted to the local primary school. Five centers were set-up, one per village. The pre-education center of each village is located in a rented house with sufficient space for learners, facilities for play areas, safe drinking water and sanitation. Village people are directly involved in the development process to increase the success of the project.

Before starting work , qualified teachers who are chosen to work in the centers attend a 12-day training course on: child education, pedagogy, psychology, teaching learning/methods, monitoring and reporting. During the school program, teachers attend an additional 3-day intensive course to strengthen and improve their teaching methods. Each teacher is responsible for a class of 30 children.

Literacy and numeracy are taught along with family welfare. Classes are held for 3 hours on a daily basis, 5 days a week. The program lasts 12 months. A literacy test is taken every 4 months and a certificate is provided to the students after their final examination.

TITLE: "Sex Education in Siavonga"
COUNTRY: Zambia, (Africa)
FOCUS: Health and HIV
NGO: Ce.L.I.M. - Centro Laici Italiani per le Missioni

P.zza Fontana, 2 - 20122 MILANO (S. legale)
Via S. Calimero, 11/13 - 20122 MILANO
Tel. 02/58316324 - 58317810 (02/58317213 fax)
E-mail: Home page
LOCAL PARTNER: Monze Diocese

Zambia has one the highest rates of HIV infection in the world; the virus infects approximately 20% of the population. The illness primarily affects young people, and causes devastating social and economic conditions.

Due to the diffusion of HIV, expenses for health services are increasing and the labor supply is decreasing. After the first case of HIV, in the mid-1980s, the government launched a direct information and sensitization campaign, but the results were not successful.

Ce.L.I.M. launched a project aimed at preventing HIV, in the Siavonga district, at the beginning of the 1990s. The project started in collaboration with some local schools and addressed young people of school age. The program included sex education lessons for students and training courses in sex education for local teachers.

The project was so successful that the Education Ministry and Diocese of Monze asked Ce.L.I.M. to strengthen and extend the program. Ce.L.I.M.'s new project includes sex education lessons for even younger students, and training courses to street educators for school drop-outs. The project foresees the education of a supervisor, eight courses in local schools; training courses for four school educators; and courses for 20 street educators.

TITLE: Huilio program: local and sustainable development for native communities of the Municipality of Freire"
COUNTRY: Chile, (South America)
FOCUS: Literacy and Numeracy (with the intercultural and bilingual approach), Agriculture
NGO: PROSVIL - Progetto Sviluppo CGIL

Via di S. Teresa, 23 00198 ROMA Tel. 06/8411741
Nexus CGIL Emilia Romagna - Via Marconi, 69 40122 BOLOGNA Tel. 051/294775 - Iscos CISL
Emilia Romagna e Progetto Sud Emilia Romagna
LOCAL PARTNER: Gestion y Desarollo Ltda. Freire Town Council

The territory of Huilio in the IX region of Chile, is inhabited by the Mapuches, an indigenous community. The Mapuches represent approximately 10% of the population of Chile. They live in conditions of extreme poverty and suffer the consequences of political decisions, which repress small-scale agriculture and do nothing to actively sustain the cultural and social codes of ethnic minorities.

The project proposed the improvement of the social and economic conditions and the quality of life of the Mapuche communities, by giving importance to Mapuche culture as a resource for the process of modernization. The project's activities regarding basic rural education were aimed at farming families. The main activity gave priority to the involvement of youth; the sector that is most likely to emigrate to the city to compensate for the lack of local opportunities. Particular attention was given to women, whose productive role is valued within traditional culture. The training activities for production were aimed at the following sectors: administration, production, and activities for the transformation and marketing of agricultural products, management of credits and the design of productive micro-projects. From this process, two productive micro projects were developed: apiculture and biological agriculture. The Mapuche farmers recognized the existence of real possibilities for the development of this type of agriculture, which respects the natural environment, and maintains traditional Mapuche culture and food. The apiculture micro project was preceded by theoretical and practical training, which included the division of responsibility for the management of a collective educational beehive, the preparation of the substance for harvesting, and its transformation into honey.

Training in community health and traditional Mapuche medicine was developed in agreement with the "Servicio de Salud Regional", the Municipality and the university. Courses were designed for health workers located in rural areas to help overcome existing prejudices, and meetings were held with the health workers and Mapuche community members responsible for medical matters, thereby facilitating the integration of the different medical systems.

A literacy and numeracy activity was developed using Intercultural & Bilingual Education (IBE) methodology: education through schooling is the frontier between the process of education and integration into the national society. The IBE involves the elders, depositaries of traditional knowledge and the younger generations, who represent modernization. The language, practices and traditional concepts, considered useless by western society, were revalued in order to achieve better didactic results. The project developed a refresher program for teachers through "lesson types" developed in the classroom, contacts within the community through the organization of traditional cultural events and the elaboration of didactic materials.

TITLE "Special Coaching and Skills Training for Outcast Dalit Girls"
COUNTRY: India, (Asia)
FOCUS: Literacy and Numeracy
NGO: OPAM - Opera di Promozione dell'Alfabetizzazione nel Mondo

Via Pietro Cossa, 41 - 00193 ROMA - Tel. 06/3203317 - 3203318 - 3203320 (06/3203261 fax)
E-mail: Home page:
LOCAL PARTNER: The Liberation Movement for Women (LMW)

The Liberation Movement for Women (LMW) was legally constituted 12 years ago and has been working for the social development, participation and empowerment of women at the grass roots level in 50 different Indian communities ever since.

In India, where women are exploited within the community, Dalit women suffer the most. Due to insufficient rainfall, rural Dalit people are forced to migrate from place to place in order to survive, thus increasing illiteracy and child labor. Female education is not at all encouraged, and as a consequence many girls become prey to early marriage, unmarried motherhood and prostitution. In order to improve the situation for these girls and to provide them with a better future, LMW decided to implement a special coaching program for young Dalit girls.

Due to the circumstances described above, many Dalit girls fail their secondary level public examination and become dropouts. LMW developed the following project to enable these girls to become masters of their own destinies through education. Every year, 60 girls (divided into two groups, starting at different timeperiods) are selected for a training and coaching program, which lasts 5 months and will prepare them for the secondary level government examination.These skills will provide the girls with better qualifications and increase their future opportunities.

Benefits of the project:

TITLE: "Strengthening the repatriation and reinstallation of the returnees in Mozambique"
COUNTRY: Mozambique, (Africa)
FOCUS: Literacy and Numeracy, Small and Micro Enterprise
NGO: CIES - Centro di Informazione ed Educazione allo Sviluppo

Via Merulana, 198 - 00185 ROMA - Tel. 06/77264611 (06/77264628 fax)
E-mail: Home page:

The CIES project was aimed at developing a literacy campaign linked to the introduction of income generating activities, for illiterate rural women in the District of Mossurize, Manica Province, Mozambique - a number of beneficiaries being former refugees.

The project's major activities included: a literacy campaign in mother tongue (Ndau) and later in Portuguese, the inception of a number of income-generating activities with the participants of the literacy groups, and follow-up during the literacy campaign.

The project duration was from 1 May 1996 to end of April 1998.

From 1998 to-date, CIES has continued to support and expand this adult literacy programme, which has been included as a component of the following projects, financed by the European Commission: "Programa de Desenvolvimento em Consolidaçao dos Projectos de Emergencia e Reabilitaçao nos Distritos de Mossurize e Chibabava" (implemented in consortium with Molisv) (1997-1999), "Valorizaçao cultural no Distrito de Mossurize, Provincia de Manica: Educaçao non-formal para adultos e ensino bilingue experimental para crianças" (2000-2002).

The following number of people were involved : 650 in the literacy campaign, 15 literacy and activity monitors trained, 2 to 3 general personnel, occasional consultants for literacy and activities, and a project director (a linguistic expert).

The government counterpart was Manica Province and Mossurize District Administration, and the funding Agency UNIFEM.

Since early 1990, CIES has assisted (in the Camps of Tongogara and Chambuta - near the border with Mossurize District) Mozambican Refugees in Zimbabwe by providing emergency relief and developing education, agriculture and income generating activities. The NGO was invited by the Nucleo de Apoio aos Refugiados and by the Provincial Government of Manica to assist in the resettlement and reintegration of returnees and displaced people in the District of Mossurize.

The District of Mossurize had remained completely isolated for over 15 years, war had disrupted all productive and commercial/marketing activities, apart from a few exchanges with Zimbabwe in the border zones. Most of the population had fled, most of the infrastructures were destroyed, and all the roads linking settlements to the District and Provincial Capitals were either mined, or had become inaccessible. Mossurize was considered one of the five priority Districts of the Province of Manica, due to its excellent climate and soil - two favourable factors for agriculture. Apart from the areas closely surrounding the administrative posts of Espungabera and Dacata, most of the District was under the control of Renamo throughout the years of war. Facilitating the integration between previously separate government-controlled and Renamo-controlled areas, was therefore another critical issue.

With the repatriation of the population, two essential needs had to be taken into immediate consideration: the re-establishment of basic services and the development of economic activities.

Throughout the 1994/95 period, efforts were mainly concentrated on the re-establishment of basic services. CIES worked in the District capital, Espungabera, and in the central District areas in close cooperation with the local authorities, International Agencies and National and International NGOs operating in the Province. It supported the setting up of the District Coordinating Committee; organized teams of builders made up of ex-refugees trained in the camps for the rehabilitation of a number of disrupted buildings; distributed seeds and agricultural tools; constituted brigades of local people who, with the help of a tractor and hand tools, opened a number of essential road tracks to join numerous settlements of isolated populations; created service areas and cleared diptanks for livestock; carried out training courses for a group of carpenters and metalworkers, and developed a pilot programme for functional adult literacy-numeracy by training tutors and opening 6 "Circulos de Cultura" in different communities. Classes were then attended by 220 persons (75% women).

This Project was implemented to ensure continuity of the activities already underway, developing in two directions: functional literacy for adult women and economic activities managed by women. It was aimed at promoting self-autonomy and sustainable development, encouraging people to develop capacities to achieve greater personal responsibility and greater commitment in all activities of development within their environment.

The strategy adopted was:

Activities concentrated mainly on linguistic research into the Ndau language, the elaboration of a manual, and of a small Portuguese-Ndau lexicon. Didactic materials available from the Sofala Education Department were also adapted. Training seminars were held to select and train literacy instructors, introducing the methodology of participative teaching in conducting mother-tongue literacy. Special sessions were devoted to the introduction of Portuguese.

An enquiry was pursued to identify the places where to set up new "Circulos de Cultura", and to define strategies to consolidate those already in existence. Following the requests of groups of women, a feasibility study was conducted to define sustainable economic activities. Nine Centres were built with the help of the local communities, and previous centres were repaired ( traditional huts were improved and equipped with benches, table, blackboards, etc. and nearby latrines). Classes for groups of approximately 20 people took place twice a week, for three hours. Regular visits were conducted on the sites to check attendance, the quality of teaching and the level of assimilation. General meetings were held at the end of each month in Espungabera, to review the advancement of the programme and problems encountered.

A number of income-generating activities were also set up (sowing, knitting, wet and dry gardens, small animal husbandry, bread baking, maize grinding mills), andbasic inputs and technical support were provided.

TITLE: Promotion of women's tailoring groups. Qinghai Province- Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture- Tongde County-Garmuqi and Ba Guo villages
COUNTRY: China, (Asia)
FOCUS: Small and Micro Enterprise
A.S.I.A. - Associazione per la solidarietà internazionale in Asia

Via S.Martino della Battaglia, 31- int.15- sc.B - 00185 Roma - Tel. 06/44340034 - Fax 06/44702620 (Sede operativa)Merigar Podere Nuovo-58031 Arcidosso (GR) (Sede Legale)
E-mail: Home page:

Garmuqi and Ba Guo villages are situated in a very mountainous area in Tongde County, where poverty is higher than the national average in the Hainan Autonomous Prefecture. Tongde County has a high proportion (88 percent) of people of ethnic minority, while in rural areas this proportion is 100 percent. The overall rural income per person is usually below the international poverty line of 1 USD per person per day.

Within such poor communities, the status of women is particularly precarious. They lack access to productive resources and their income-earning possibilities areminimal. In spite of this, women are active in handicrafts, sewing, food processing and small trade. One activity is the tailoring of traditional Tibetan dresses, which are used during weddings and other important ceremonies. Increasing demand from the expanding tourist sector has created an additional market stimulus. Traditional Tibetan dress-making requires a specific know-how, which at present is retained by elderly women. However, the safeguarding and further development of this type of manual art are threatened, as younger generations of women face a number of problems when setting-up a tailoring business. . The project on the promotion of women tailoring groups has just started and aims at safeguarding and expanding this traditional knowledge through training and promoting investments in traditional and other dress-making activities for the market. The project supports two groups of women in setting up income generating activities in tailoring. While, the groups specialize in traditional Tibetan dress and garment making, they also produce modern dresses and carry out darning and mending work. As well as giving training, the project has provided electric sewing machines and electric irons. Group membership has been kept limited to avoid the risk of market glut. The project is being implemented by voluntarily constituted groups of women, the establishment of which was facilitated by the ASIA's formulation mission in Garmuqi. Criteria for the self-selection of members in the group from among the women in the village community were: some experience in traditional Tibetan dressmaking and sewing, and an awareness of the need for group cohesiveness and solidarity. As most of the women were illiterate, some literate daughters, interested in learning the tailoring of traditional garments, were co-opted to fulfill the functions of treasurer and secretary of the group.

Additional women, meeting the criteria and interested in joining, were also selected to participate only in the training activities. The group in Ba Guo was set up according to the same criteria and approach. The overall number of beneficiaries will be twenty women, representing about 14 households. In total, some 64 persons will benefit. The women's groups have set up their own internal management structure. All members have elected a Co-ordinator, usually an elderly lady, a Deputy Co-ordinator, a Secretary and a Treasurer, the latter two from among the literate daughters in the groups. Each group is fully responsible for the implementation of the project, with the support and supervision of the Representative of the Women's Federation in Tongde County. After project completion, two groups of 10 women will be able to produce traditional Tibetan garments and modern dresses for the market, and carry-out sundry mending work. In approximately two years' time, each group member will have increased its income by RMB 1.163 or the equivalent of 144 USD. This pays, for instance, for the tuition and boarding fees of two children in a Central Boarding Primary School.

These women will use the additional income generated to improve the education of their children, the health of all family members, and other welfare improving expenditures. Any savings will be invested in further economic activities.

TITLE: "Socio-economic development of oppressed population groups in Nepal"
COUNTRY: Nepal, (Asia)
FOCUS: Integrated
NGO: AIFO - Associazione Italiana Amici di Raoul Follereau

Via Borselli 4-6, 40135 Bologna, Italia, Tel: +39.051-43.34.02 Fax: +39.051-43.40.46
Email: Homepage:

Summary of activities: the project is managed by a Nepalese non-governmental organization called Women Acting Together for CHange (WATCH), based in Kathmandu. WATCH is a Resource-support organization (RSO), which means that its main role is to train and strengthen other smaller non-governmental organizations and grass-root groups. The project activities are carried out in the following three rural areas: an area in the high mountains called Okhaldunga; an area near the national capital Katmandu, called Chaimalle; and finally an area in the low plains or the Terai region, called Rupendehi. In each project area, the activities include: the promotion of women groups through participatory methodologies and creating a federation of these groups, training village volunteers for community health services, promoting informal adult education classes, promoting social forestry groups, reclaiming forest lands, and promoting seed-funds and credit funds for income generation activities, etc.

All of the project's activities are focused on women from lower castes and tribal groups, who are usually the poorest people in villages. Some activities, like creating groups for channeling and using common water, veterinary service groups etc. also involve men.

At present there are 70 women's groups in the project areas, who have formed a national federation together. They act locally to deal with problems like AIDS, women-trafficking in neighbouring India, the sexual exploitation of women and children, etc. They also act nationally, pushing for changes to national policies and laws.

The project areas are used as training grounds for hosting other grass-root organizations and NGOs from Nepal for training and awareness building.

TITLE "Literacy of rural women in ASIA"
COUNTRY: Bangladesh, (Asia)
FOCUS: Integrated
NGO: OPAM - Opera di Promozione dell'Alfabetizzazione nel Mondo

Via Pietro Cossa, 41 - 00193 ROMA - Tel. 06/3203317 - 3203318 - 3203320 (06/3203261 fax)
E-mail: Home page:
LOCAL PARTNERS: "Society for the promotion of human rights",
"Association ÜZZIBNANY", "Association Ratandia Unnayan Sangstha (RUS)"

"Whoever trains a child trains a man, whoever trains a woman trains people."

In Bangladesh 12 percent of women are literate, whilst the percentage of literate men is 26 percent. Women are socially handicapped. Despite the fact that they have the same civil rights as men, in reality, society considers them inferior beings, the property of males, and condemns them to a sub-human level of life. This situation has existed for centuries and is not easy to change. Two of the most important factors required to bring about change in women's lives are literacy and economic independence. O.P.A.M. is aware of the importance of educating women from childhood to empower them both socially and economically. The project supports literacy schools for women in several rural villages.

O.PA.M. has launched three projects:

Women in development programs in the Meherpur District and Khulna District

In collaboration with Abu Abid, the Director of the "Society for the promotion of human rights", O.P.A.M. started a project called "Women in development programs", in Meherpur District. This is a school program for 750 women in 12 rural villages. In the Khulna District, O.P.A.M. launched a school program for 600 women of 12 rural villages with the association "ÜZZIBNANY". In these schools, women are trained in literacy, health and hygiene and basic financial literacy. They receive technical support for homestead vegetable cultivation and lessons on nutrition. At the end of the course, the learners take a non-formal test. Women who complete the program will be expected to be able to read and write in their language (Bengali). The Numeracy course will give them the ability to do basic calculations and family bookkeeping. Improved literacy and numeracy will give them the skills and confidence to manage practical every day situations more effectively. After the course, to ensure that the neo-literates continue to read and do not return to illiteracy, a basic library is placed in the house of one of the families that participated in the course in each of the twelve villages. Every library contains didactic and cultural books in the Bengali language.

Consciousness raising program:

In Bangladesh, women are often victims of torture, violence and injustice. They are unaware of their rights and unable to protest when these rights are violated. If women are not educated about their rights, they cannot be expected to fully participate in society.

For these reasons, O.P.A.M, in co-operation with the Ratandia Unnayan Sangstha (RUS), launched an annual program for 1000 women and their husbands. The aim is to develop awareness on women's rights, male-female differences, and the practice of torture and violence against women. This project will start in 20 rural villages and will be conducted by the village trainers. During the training period, participants will learn about the conceptual framework of gender relationships, gender gaps, women's rights and male-female differences. The project shows films focused on violence against women, hands out posters on women's torture and violence, holds seminars with village leaders and religious leaders on the abuse of power against women, and arranges for at least two protest processions against injustice.

When women are conscious of their rights, it will be easier for them to participate in the country's economic, social and cultural development.

TITLE: "Women and medicinal plants: sustainable cultivation and processing"
COUNTRY: India, (Asia)
FOCUS: Small and Micro Enterprise
NGO: COSPE - Cooperazione per lo Sviluppo dei Paesi Emergenti

- Via Slataper, 10 - 50134 FIRENZE - Tel. 055/473556 (055/472806 fax)
- Via F.lli Bordoni, 6 - 40133 BOLOGNA - Tel.051/3140087 (051/3140079)
E-mail: - Home page

India grows 8.000 known medicinal plants and one third can be found in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala regions. More than 800 of them are in used in the Indian Medical System, whilemany others are used for homemade remedies or as food integrators. About 90 percent of the medicinal plant supplies are taken from the existing forests, causing a serious threat to conservation. Although no systematic estimates of the threat status of medicinal plants has been carried out, rapid appraisals have shown that at least 250 species are threatened in India, half of them in the mentioned regions. The increasing request for medicinal plant supplies, both from the local and external market, while being a matter of concern for the species survival, is being considered by local NGO's as an income-generating opportunity for villagers who are located in areas where such plants could be cultivated.

The present market situation of medicinal plants is unregulated and difficult to access. The traders of quality plants for the pharmaceutical industry are few, and the cultivators-collectors disorganized. At the village-level, middlemen favor low-costs against quality. Increasing requests from the international market are presently not stable, but it is becoming clear that the main focus for the medicinal plants industry will be quality, proper cultivation/processing techniques, in a clean environment by organic means.

COSPE believes that women are best placed to enter the market on a quality perspective: at the community level, medicinal plant knowledge, management, and use is primarily a tradition linked to women. However, women are not in a position to take the lead in the development processes in India; therefore, an additional effort must be made to involve them at all levels, from production to processing to marketing. The group approach to women's involvement has, in the last few years, been the most efficient and effective way to support women's empowerment and their active role in development. Women are mobilized in Self-help Groups (SHG), which are then provided with credit and technical inputs to undertake economic activities. The group provides a base for self-employment and empowerment through group dynamics. COSPE's project pools together the experience of 7 South Indian NGOs in medicinal plant cultivation, women's empowerment and self-help group organisations. 300 women self-help groups - totaling 6000 women - who are interested in cultivating, collecting or processing medicinal plants and spices, have been identified. Their leaders will be trained in management, leadership and organization. The leaders and the members will be trained in ecologically sustainable production (cultivation and collection) and in simple, appropriate processing for the local market.

The project envisages that these training courses be held on various Indian NGOs sites and SHGs (Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Madurai, Bangalore, Kanjocode). Women from various locations will participate in each course, thus providing a space for women's exchange and reciprocal learning. The training will be repeated at self-help group locations and in fields/gardens/processing centres, with the assistance of women community organisers from the NGOs who will be trained in advance to follow the whole process through.

TITLE : "Agricultural Co-operative in Ethiopia"
COUNTRY: Ethiopia, (Africa)
FOCUS: Agriculture and Small and Micro Enterprise
NGO: G.M.A. - Gruppo Missioni Asmara
c/o Istituto Sacchieri
Via Luppia Alberi, 3 - 35044 Montagnana (PD) - Tel. 0429/800830 (0429/804040 fax)
E-mail: Home page:

Hembetcho Village is situated in the Boloso-Sore , in Southern Ethiopia. The village contains 8,000 inhabitants and is one of the most populated areas of Wolaita, with more than 300 people per sq. km. The village covers approximately 1,600/1,750 Mt. of land above sea level. In years of heavy rain, the harvest is very good; people grow maize, beans, potatoes, coffee, ginger and "tief". Fruit and vegetables cultivation is also being developed. The population's sole income comes from agriculture.

The main problem in the village is that each family has only a narrow plot of farmland to cultivate. Land reform has become a national program, decreeing the expropriation of latifundia and assigning each family a small plot of land. A family rarely owns more than a quarter of a hectare and parents must subdivide it among several children.

Government policy tends to discourage emigration and because young people are unable to find work, they have no alternative but to cultivate their small pieces of land. Therefore, a specific priority of the project is to encourage a rational and appropriate use of agricultural techniques.

G.M.A., in co-operation with the Vicariate Apostolic of Soddo Hosanna, has created an agricultural co-operative, with 66 farmer members, which is legally recognized by the government.

The project aims to take advantage of the co-operative's power in order to increase land productivity. The co-operative has more purchasing power to buy seeds or land than a single farmer. It also helps farmers build storehouses for the storage of crops. An expert teacher from the co-operative trains the farmer members in different basic agricultural techniques.

The co-operative has built an oil press with the objective of generating more income; part of this income will be used to build a new school for the village.

With this project, G.M.A. aims to improve the villagers' living conditions by maximizing agricultural productivity, promoting the development of agricultural economic activities, and investing in basic agricultural skills training.

TITLE: "Setting up of maize and millet bread-making Cooperatives, Senegal"
COUNTRY: Senegal, (Africa)
FOCUS: Small and Micro Enterprise, Literacy and Numeracy
NGO: ISCOS - Istituto Sindacale per la Cooperazione con i Paesi in via di sviluppo
Via R. Lanciani, 30 - 00162 ROMA - Tel. 06/86200640 (06/86203950 fax)
E-mail: Home page:
LOCAL PARTNER: "CNTS (Confederation Nationale des Travailleurs du Sénégal)"

The project aims to create bread-making cooperative firms, that are self- managed and able to produce a good quality product at a fair price. The co-operatives were set up in the most populated districts of the capital city, where market request is high, and in the poor region of Diourbel, Louga, Thies e Kaolak, where bread-making firms are few and inadequate.

The project set-up infrastructures related to modern and functional hygienic procedures. Each cooperative building contains a kitchen area, a shop to sell products, a fermentation room, a bathroom and showers. Each has a mill able to produce maize, millet and wheat meal constantly, as the project's main aim is to produce a good quality of mixed grain bread. The composition of this kind of bread was first studied technically by ITA (the Institution of Alimentary Technology of Dakar), and then improved through experience.The result is a high quality of mixed grain bread, which is more nutritious than white bread.

The project has also created an Association for the Cooperatives. The aim of the Association is to help members solve problems, manage incomes, provide technical assistance, and develop cooperatives' activities.

The project has implemented cooperatives in the following districts: Marchè Zing-Renovation a Guediawaye (Dakar), Nietty Mbars a Pikine (Dakar), Parcelles assainies (Dakar), Rufisque; and in the Diourbel, Louga, Thies e Kaolak Districts.

This project aimed at addressing the following needs:

Training was considered a strategic resource for this project, and "Human Resources" were considered to be one of the most critical and relevant elements for its success.

Training includes:

Six literacy courses were held in French for 60 cooperative members over four years. The technical training uses a method based on adult education The method follows a circular route: theory-practice-verification-theory. It was particularly interesting to link theory with practice, to facilitate the immediate employment of the trainees. The tools used included: blackboards, recorders, slides and tests. Project duration is four years.

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