The strategy of ECHOPPE : Economic Improvement and Solidarity for Social Empowerment.
ECHOPPE uses the economy as a means to generate a process of social emancipation and empowerment.
It begins as part of an individual initiative of each person in order to stimulate the emergence of collective organizations. While aiding the growth in urban and rural environments, ECHOPPE regenerates the connection between the towns and the countryside by emphasizing an economic dynamic of solidarity. The purpose of this method emancipates the most vulnerable persons by creating situations that encourage participation in collective organizations for their own development.
1. Using the Economy as a means to Social Empowerment
While living in a world of economic vulnerability and social insecurity, people become victims of marginalization and exclusion. These people must focus primarily on their own personal situations and that of their material security. This discourages participation in groups and collective initiatives. As a result, many small farmers or women for instance, leave their communities in search of other economic gains.
With this in mind, the project focuses first on the improvement of the physical situation of the beneficiaries.
In today's context of strong urban growth, the modern sector of the economy fails to offer real possibilities of economic insertion for the majority of the population. The creation of activities in the informal sector remains the primary opportunity for a source of revenue for most of this population, most particulary for women. However, most of the very poor cannot access even this, the simplest access to the marketplace. It is here that ECHOPPE begins.
Beginning in1990, ECHOPPE endeavored to develop a program of small loans for poor women. No initial guarantee is required. No prior savings is needed. The small credit, of 30 to 150 euros, is reimbursed over a period of one year with weekly deadlines that can fluctuate depending on the revenue collected each week. The weekly repayement is collected by a collector directly at home or at the work place of the woman. In addition to the repayment, women also save.
The second stage of this method consists of giving the people social support and further training skills to further restore their autonomy. If other environmental and social factors of human lives are not taken into consideration, including reinforcing dignity and human rights, then the potential for additional economic growth is limited or, worse, destroyed.
The economics behind the success of the microcredit program is that it addresses the most pressing issues that destroy the social well-being of the individual; issues which threaten the emancipation process. The growth and well-being of a person plays a critical role in fostering economic success. This method is strongly encouraged and favored by the program as more than two-thirds of the beneficiairies, who have received these small loans, have managed to build and maintain a sustainable amount of savings.
2. Focus first on individual initiative and then stimulate emerging collective organizations; from being alone to becoming part of a group in society.
In the beginning, ECHOPPE focuses on the individual and the support of her/his economic activity. It underlines the difficult conditions of the most vulnerable and reflects upon the logic of a more global development of the popular economy and the ecosystem.
The popular economy is developed in a situation of strong competition. These activities of the informal sector have little profit and do not facilitate a real economic gain in “wealth” without a minimum amount of equipment and investments. The financial resources must maintain a level of balance with these activities that permit businesswomen to increase their stocks of merchandise. However, it is necessary to have enough financial resources for each entrepreneur of the community to continue in organization of development that will heavily weigh on the political public.
The need to better understand the functioning of business and the politics of society leads the women into integrating monthly neighborhood meetings. After a number of loans the women are then no longer constrained by their initial situation. They then hold the potential to progressively integrate these collective actions into a professional community. By producing and reinforcing this process through social services, the project is better equiped to improve the material situation and to continue collective acts that ensure emancipation and empowerment for each person. Neighborhood meetings continue to address root causes of poverty in the system including themes such as inheritance, marriage, domestice violence, to voting and teaching sexual conduct to children. The creation of this “social circle” is the heart of the ECHOPPE method that allows the emergence of beneficiairies out of poverty through the organization of the civil society that can generate partners in the effort to promote sustainability.
3. Operating in both urban and rural areas to regenerate the link between towns and the countryside and favoring a dynamic of economic solidarity
The strength of the popular economy as a system of economic integration for the most vulnerable means responding to the essential needs and to establishing its own market. Those with a smaller purchasing power are the operators of the informal economy as well as its main clients. When taking into account the level of women's activity in the informal sector, more specifically in the small amount of food trade and the food sold in the streets, ECHOPPE recognized that there is an inequality in commercial relations between the town and the countryside that does not properly serve the villages. It is evident that the resources made available by the profits of agricultural production benefit more of the urban operators (traders, wholesalers, transporters) than those of small producers in rural ares or the women merchants in the town. By creating a commercial relationship that links the women market vendors and the small farm producers, this action is better able to reinforce the source of supply to the women in town and expand their level of commercial activities. As a result, towns and villages gain a bigger role in agricultural production that in return increases the revenue of its inhabitants. Operating in both an urban environment and a rural environment strengthens the link between the towns and the countryside by joining the popular economy with the village economy. This stimulates dynamic growth in two different categories: the most vulnerable women and families in the towns and the people living in rural areas.
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