Brave Women at the Ends of the Graduation Approach


By Anna Ferracuti


In June 2019, I participated in a TrickleUp-organized week-long workshop on the Graduation Approach, a sequenced and time-bound intervention that aims to help people living in extreme poverty build resilience and engage in sustainable livelihood. I already knew that the Graduation Approach had been tested and proven to work worldwide. I had an idea of how this approach worked but hearing from those who were designing, implementing or funding it was a whole other story.


However, what I was truly impressed with was seeing what ‘graduation’ meant in human terms. This happened during an exposure visit to Meheba Refugee Settlement, 75km south-west of Solwezi, Zambia, where Caritas Czech Republic and UNHCR were starting with the second cohort of their graduation program.


Eliada has diversified her livelihoods as a Graduation participant. She now has four goats, chickens, a maize shelter, and soybeans ready to be sold. 


I was very poor

Eliada is a participant from the first cohort of the programme and has seen the benefits. She's very proud of what she's accomplished as a single mother, and rightly so.


"I was very poor. I cultivated maize but without fertilizer. My children didn't go to school, I have three.”
Now, two of Eliada's children go to primary school, the older one to secondary school. She has US $135 in savings in a group that US $876 total deposits in a banking account. She has four goats, various chickens, a maize shelter and 26 bags of soybeans that are ready to be sold. Due to poor harvest this season, she only has two bags of beans. She also grows sweet potatoes, which are selling well at the market.


Refugees in Meheba are given one hectare per household to settle. Eliada is renting two additional hectares and some decares in another neighborhood in block A. Her plan is to do crop aggregation and sell in December, when prices are higher. She has friends in other blocks who will collect others' harvest for her.


"All components were important. I feel that if even one had been missing, I wouldn't have made it. I would have fell back to poverty," says Eliada.


Eliada also planned to rebuild her house last year, but has not yet been able to do so. However, she does not seem too concernedd—she will do it next.


Aimee supports a large family  in Meheba. As a new member of the newest Graduation cohort, she plans  to raise livestock and open a shop. 


This program va soulever my family

When Aimée heard from a megaphone that there was a program that would lift her family out of poverty ("soulever") by helping her to start a business, she thought of her grocery shop back home, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Rumors spread through Block D in Meheba—where Aimee lives—that the program was a loan scheme for which she would eventually repay with crushing interest. Skeptical of the rumors and dreaming of a better life for herself and her family, Aimee pursued the program and applied to join the second cohort of Meheba’s Graduation program.


Aimée's family is unquestionably extremely poor. Aimée supports a family of ten with piecework. She has four children—an infant, two in primary school, and one who could go to secondary school if Aimee could afford the cost US $35 per term. Aimée also supports her elderly mother and her sister with a panerai infection who is currently unable to work and has three children herself.


All income goes into food and savings are in the form of maize flour that the sisters grind and stock for harder times. The women make sure to have a chicken in the yard, to sell it to buy medicines if a child gets sick or to celebrate a special day.


Sometimes, Aimée makes enough money to US $0.15 worth of mobile access, using the phone only for work purposes. She is not in touch with anyone on the other side of the border.


Aimee is now in the early stages of the Graduation process, including livelihood planning. During the program, she wants to open a shop and start farming livestock to diversify her income sources. The bricks for the stable are already drying right outside her yard. Being in a savings group with people she may not know does not faze her. Back in Congo, she was in a rotating credit and savings association (ROSCA) with other market people and had a bank account.


Like Eliada, she also wants to make some changes in the house, "I wouldn't call this a roof, I'll build a proper one" Aimee says. "I'll work very hard, I'll work harder to make it. This programme will help my family raise high and I'll do whatever is needed for my children and all of us, my family".



The Trickle Effect in Action

Trickle Up is working with UNHCR and Self-Help Africa to deliver Graduation to the refugees of Meheba, the second largest refugee settlement in Zambia. The potential impact on the Meheba community is already evident.

This blog is based on the ‘Graduation for Persons of Concern Exposure Visit to Caritas Czech Republic and UNHCR’s Graduation programme in Meheba Refugee Settlement’, Zambia. The visit was organized by Trickle Up and facilitated interaction with the participants of the graduation, coaches, and UNHCR and implementing partners’ in-country staff. As UNCDF Programme Coordinator in Tanzania, my objective was to explore how the graduation approach was being successfully adapted and implemented for refugees and host populations in Southern Africa.

Anna Ferracuti is the Financial Inclusion Programme Coordinator for the UN Capital Development Fund, United Republic of Tanzania

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