The Engines of Development
For SDI, the central participation of women is not just an ideal but a critical component of a gender-sensitive mobilization strategy, which sees men and women re-negotiating their relationships within families, communities, and Federations. By prioritizing the leadership potential of women, SDI is attempting to change a social structure which is presently set up to exploit women's involvement and commitment to family and community.
At the very heart of this work has always been women — poor women, abused women, illiterate women, pavement-dwelling women — who are vital to the creation, maintenance and growth of every settlement. Recognising that women are often the true engines of development, SDI uses the savings and credit methodology to develop their leadership capacity, financial management skills, and confidence.
By entrusting women to handle such important monetary systems — whereby they are in charge of the precious savings of their neighbours and friends — communities begin to understand the potential of women as public decision-makers and powerful agents of change. In fact, savings and credit activities, apart from their clear financial benefits, serve as a means to bring women out of the home and into the public sphere in a manner rarely resented by men.
The very same skills women have cultivated to run the household, are needed to run a savings scheme, and, eventually, to manage a large-scale community construction project. By learning to save small amounts of money, read bank statements, and repay and reschedule loans, women are consciously preparing themselves to manage much larger amounts of money (loans, grants, donor finance), which can be used for land, housing, and infrastructure development.
In SDI's experience, it is always women who dream of tree-lined streets, brick houses, and safe places for their children to play. And women are willing to save incrementally to turn this dream into a reality. Thus, women's savings and loan schemes are the foundation for all collective action.