One of our first major accomplishments was the establishment and maintenance of Women's Solidarity Funds Groups. Noting the large amount of displaced persons from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, in the north Sudanese city of Omdurman, our founder Zeinab Blandia came upon the idea of creating some sense of community by getting women to prepare and taste each others local cuisine, then chat over coffee. A stunningly simple idea, these groups of thirty or so women were soon meeting at least once a week, forming close bonds and bringing their communities closer together in the process.
It was also an empowering process for the women, creating a strong community of female support around them, which often gave them the courage to return to education or strike out on their own and start up a small business. There are some 170 Women's Solidarity Groups currently operating across the region.
Out of the Women Solidarity Fund Groups came another project, a micro financing scheme for women wishing to start up small enterprises. One issue that cropped up again and again from the women's groups was the difficulties they faced in accessing finance or credit when endevouring to start up small business or small scale enterprises. If they managed to set up a small enterprise, it proved difficult for women to save money as excessive costs of daily life consumed most of their income.
These conditions provided the basis for the birth of the Women solidarity fund group Saving bank system. Before implementing the project, our director Zeinab Blandia and her team carefully studied and researched community development schemes and micro finance schemes in other developing countries. They harnessed experiences from other projects, adjusted it slightly to suit their own needs and developed a highly successful model which was simple but effective.
Each group nominated three women who would agree to be "managers" of this small scale bank; the bank would be open for 2-3 hours twice a week and would enable its members to deposit savings and receive modest amounts of credit. The women took a great source of pride in running their own bank and the system proved highly effective. Since 1997, micro financing systems like this original bank have been used by Ru'ya throughout South Kordofan.
Another Ru'ya project of which we are extremely proud, is the training of four illiterate grandmothers from rural Sudan in solar technology. The training enable them to equip their villages with electricity for the first time ever and pass on their skills to others; it greatly improved the quality of life and economic prospects of the whole community. Read a more detailed description of the project here http://ruyaassociation.blogspot.com/2011/10/enlightening-communities-rural.html