While working with women in a slum of Kathmandu to prototype a community-centered program to empower women, we planned to brainstorm with them opportunities for financial empowerment through revenue generation activities and define the associated skills training. Before delving in these issues, we wanted to better understand their current situation, especially in terms of income and revenue generation, and get a sense of their skills and expertise.
HOW I USED THIS METHOD
To start a conversation around “who was earning money in the household? Through which activities? What were the outlays for the family?” we used a revenue flow template. We started by focusing on incoming money: Who is earning money in the household and how? We sketched the answers on cards. When a woman mentioned an activity, we asked who else in the group was doing this job or had a husband doing a similar job in order to get a group overview. We then asked the women what were the outlays for their family. We made sure to explore further. For example, in a previous card sorting activity on safety, alcohol emerged as a problem. All women said their husbands drank. Yet, none had mentioned alcohol as an expense item. We asked them and they all agreed and said that we should also add cigarettes and gambling. This led us to explore how financial decisions were made in the household and by whom providing ways to uncover the role and power of different actors in the family.
WHAT I LEARNED
Engaging with this activity, we were able to uncover some skills the women had and could develop for income generation. We also uncovered constraints (childcare, feeling (un-) comfortable leaving the slum, etc.), which mattered when defining income generation activities. More importantly, we realized that whether women worked or not, money allocation was made by their husband. This raised an important issue regarding the real empowerment of women if they were able to generate an income. When asked the question, the women unanimously agreed that they would not tell their husband the total amount of the revenue made, and would put part of it on a group saving account they decided to create as part of the program. This showed us how astute these women were. It also highlighted the relevance of the coop model at the core of the program. Often time with these activities, the most interesting insights are not direct answers to the explicit question but emerge from side comments or conversations. Even with a big group (36 women), this activity sparked a lot of conversations among women that were key for our next brainstorming on opportunities for income generation activities.