At Simavi, one of our main objectives is to encourage social entrepreneurship in sensitive areas in Africa and Asia. Through our projects, we give people the opportunity to receive training and education, or start their own company with help from a small loan. This helps them improve health in their communities.
Moyna Begum from the southwestern village of Bhadrapara, Bangladesh, is one of those social entrepreneurs. A few years ago she was a housewife who had to feed herself, her two children and her husband from the minimal wage that he was earning as a bus driver. “I had been thinking about how I could improve the living conditions of my family and my community for a while, so when I got the chance to become a member of the local WASH-committee, I seized the opportunity.” A WASH-committee brings together local men and women of different ages in order to manage and maintain the community WASH services. In 2011, Moyna and the rest of the committee received training on health, safe drinking water, personal hygiene and waste disposal. They also learned how to manufacture toilets.
“I started to manufacture toilets for my neighbors at home. Thanks to a loan of ~€750 from the WASH Alliance, of which Simavi is a member, I could rent a stall at the local market and sell my toilets for a fair price.” She also received training on running a business and marketing strategies. “This allowed me to manufacture toilets for people in areas in which until recently open defecation was normal. Through this training, I also learned how to educate other people on the importance of good hygiene and safe sanitation.”
One of Moyna’s biggest strengths is the fact that she is a woman in a field which is largely dominated by men. This makes her more approachable for customers, who are mostly women.
Now, 4 years after her decision to take matters into her own hands, Moyna’s company is still successful. “After paying back my loan, I received another one of ~€500 from ASA, one of the biggest suppliers of microcredit in Bangladesh. I have already paid back that loan as well. I am currently employing 3 people and selling an average of 25 toilets per month. Besides that, I am also selling soap, buckets and other sanitation materials.”
Things are going well with the sanitation business in Bangladesh: a short while ago, a female government official also started her own toilet business. In a country where status is a very important asset, this marks an important step for women.
Sustainable approach is working
Moyna is looking happy: she is a successful entrepreneur who is improving the health situation in her local community. The training and loans which she has received from Simavi and the WASH Alliance have been of great importance in achieving this. This is just one example of how we support local entrepreneurs to improve the health within their communities.