Beads of Change

by ACT

  • Posted on September 27, 2019

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… A project that is changing the lives of widows in Africa

Our mission is empowerment of widows; to restore faith & hope into their lives.

The shock of a death is traumatic, but coupled with the loss of your sole financial source leaving you and your children destitute, it becomes unbearable. As one of the widows in Burkina Faso recounts,

“You watch and observe how your children lose confidence, and lose any hope of achieving their potential in life and you feel powerless to change this situation.”

This is the impoverished and desperate circumstance faced by many women in Africa.

ACT not only aims to support disadvantaged orphans and fatherless children through fulltime education, but equally, to place a focus on widows who otherwise are forgotten.

Our Widow’s Project aims to empower widows through training to generate income and be able to support themselves and their families. It starts with bringing together widows that ACT is supporting in the community to a meeting in a local venue. At the start they are mostly strangers to each other. With a snack and a drink, they sit down not knowing what to expect. The facilitator makes a few jokes to break the ice and then asks who wants to share their story. Almost always, a silence follows. Until one brave soul speaks. From then it is almost difficult to stop them, stories are told and then conversation flows, endless, easily. They recognise that they share similar problems and face similar challenges. Without knowing it, they are beginning to form their own community. Links are made, bonds formed and painful memories exhumed.

Counselling follows, where each widow receives psychological support to lift the cloud of grief, unveil any bitterness, understand their loss, work through any confusion and restore their confidence. Once shared these emotions lose their control, the isolation of grief falls away and the fog can be lifted.  Interestingly this first stage is always the hardest part of the project. The aim is to give the women confidence and to understand their strengths and perhaps, some of their less obvious abilities.

The next stage is the training in business skills. Known as the ‘Village MBA’, it helps the women to discover their areas of skills or talents and teaches them how to start their own enterprises. We approach this with the 5Ps: product, price, place, packaging and promotion. You will be amazed how quickly their entrepreneurial skills are developed. Alongside the business training, we provide essential courses covering topics on the human and inheritance rights of widows and orphans, lessons on sanitation, HIV and living with AIDS. This whole life skills training acts as a substitute for many of the widow’s previous lack of formal education.

Once completed the widows are offered a choice – which profession to engage with? This decision is their own. Are they attracted to weaving, farming, jewellery making, hairdressing or other possible vocations? Once decided, each widow must formulate a plan, tease out any technicalities and budget their business idea. They can then turn to ACT for financial support. Our support ranges from providing small loans (at low minimal interest which goes back to support other widows), to subsiding the cost of needed equipment such as a loom or purchasing an allotment. The widow decides. This autonomy and independence is central to our work; we don’t just help widows, we help them to help themselves.

Among our projects is our Income Generation Activity in Uganda and Tanzania. It successfully helps families generate sustainable incomes by granting them livestock to breed and produce food. The number of livestock owned by families we work with in Tanzania has grown from 200 to 500, with many families now able to generate their own income. Once self-reliant, their support can be passed on to assist other needy widows. In Uganda widows engage in a multitude of activities including jewellery making. ACT buys some of the beaded necklaces to sell at our various events. The money raised is sowed back to the project.

In Burkina Faso, our microloan project has allowed almost 200 start-up projects. The loans can be up to 50,000CFA francs (£65) and are used to start-up new businesses or strengthen existing ones. These loans are paid back in instalments decided by the General Assembly of the ACT Widows Association.

This is empowerment. These formerly destitute widows now have a plan, have a source of income, can access support and are able to start breaking down the chains of poverty which have held them back.

ACT’s work currently reaches nearly 1,300 widows. Our next step is to increase this number to five thousand by 2023, and to extend the widows sustainable whole life skills programme to all 8 countries where ACT operates by 2020.  This is our mission.

With your new and continued support we can reach these targets and help the African women in need.

To take action and allow us expand our mission please follow this link:

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