I had only met with these women for a couple of hours a year ago. Long before the first conversation with them via our future project liaison Anne had occurred. Now we would find out if our cumbersome communications were truly on the same wave length. First task: meet with their chosen executive committee, a group of women made up of their current chair, Beatrice; their founder and project director, Judith; their treasurer, Monica; their facilitator and last year’s chair, Proscovia; and our liaison Anne who would also serve as our translator.
After some sharing, we got down to business. First we reviewed the budget, which this group had proposed and there were few questions. While I had hoped to go over the proposed Memorandum of Understanding, we quickly realized confusion existed around a core piece of the project design. All were in complete agreement that a major portion of the revenues would be used to pay for educational expenses, especially for the girls. Our figures were incorrect however on those costs. While public education is available, by the time children reach secondary school level, the feelings are strong that to get an adequate education children must go to one of the private alternatives: Catholic or Anglican. This involved uniforms, textbooks, fees, transportation, and often boarding. These costs are significant enough to use up all the revenues, and our contributors are committed to this project becoming self-sustaining within 5 years. That requires that a portion of the revenues be used for capital improvement. For example, that instead of U.S. Partners paying for renting plows and oxen in Year 2, that a portion of Year 1’s revenues would go for the purchase of plows and oxen so that the women could actually go in to the rental business themselves by loaning out the use of their plow and oxen to other farmers in the area.
While the agreement we would sign the next day protects the use of revenues by the women to increase their responsibility for making capital improvements, it also encourages the support of girls’ educational expenses which is so important to KRMA and to us here at USPartners.
By the end of the meeting Lindsey and I realized we needed more than the week we were in the village to do all the work we believed would be most helpful. We had identified some areas which would need attending on our next trip. However, we felt good about the talents and abilities of KRMA’s leadership team and were encouraged that we had begun the slow process of building an honest and open relationship with each other.
Next on our agenda: Attending the weekly KRMA savings and loan meeting for the entire KRMA group, and reviewing in two languages the Memorandum of Understanding — paragraph by paragraph.