Learning from each other - Rural Women micro-entrepreneurs of two Indian Ocean islands come together – Day 2

The day started very early as we had to travel up north of the island to the village of Triolet, where we visited a newly made Women’s Centre. The Centre was inaugurated in March 2009, and has been very active since! Here the Malagasy ladies learned about women’s organisational capacities. The Centre offers a diverse range of activities and opportunities to the women of the village. Women trying to launch themselves into a micro-entrepreneurial activity are given the chance by exhibiting and selling their products at the Centre for one year in allocated spaces called incubators. A yearly rotation takes place whereby different women are selected to occupy these incubators. Other activities offered by the centre include information-technology training and more leisurely activities like yoga, cooking and sewing classes.

Next, we visited an older Women’s Centre (established in 2001) in the town of Floréal, located at the central plateau of the island. This Centre equally offers women different activities, such as embroidery making, glass painting, knitting, gardening, etc. An exhibition was waiting for us when we arrived, where the Malagasy women had the opportunity to interact at length with the women of the Centre. Thoughts, ideas, contact information and jokes were shared by both, and it was hard to separate the two groups when it was time to leave!

The Malagasy women were really fascinated by the great dynamism of the two Centres and the diversity of activities offered. Such centres also exist in Madagascar, but are mainly concentrated in the capital city. The women were also struck by the efficient management of the Centres. In fact the Centres are managed by the Women’s Enterprise Council, which is found under the Ministry of Women’s rights. Here, women’s concerns are placed at the heart of the system, where their needs and requirements are carefully analysed and responded to through tailor made programmes. Women interested in pursuing these activities more professionally are also given guidance until they are able to successfully launch their own enterprises. These women often come back to the Centres to help train others to follow in their foot steps. This sense of responsibility is greatly admired by the Malagasy women, who hope to pass on this bit of knowledge to their community as soon as they get back home to their big island.