Lent Appeal 2019

In 2019, the Diocese of Ely and Christian Aid are delighted to be working together on a joint Lent Appeal.

The appeal is in support of the project "Breaking the Barriers: Business Opportunities Through Sustainable Energy Projects for Women in Rural Malawi, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Honduras".

Details of what you and your parish might be able to do to help support this invaluable work (and where to send your raised contributions) will follow shortly.

More information on this project can be found in the following sections.

Background

Rural communities in the global south have traditionally been dependent on animal husbandry to make a living. Drought, as a result of climate change means that livestock often die, and people suffer from hunger. Deforestation means good pasture for livestock becomes more scarce, as does the firewood needed for heating, cooking and lighting the home. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by these problems.

They tend be the ones who have to walk long distances to gather firewood, leaving them vulnerable to sexual violence. Women in such communities tend to be the prime users of energy for cooking and running the household, and yet they are left out of community discussions about energy needs.

When children have to rely on a wood fire for heat and light, their health suffers as does their ability to study.

Christian Aid's response

Christian Aid's "Breaking the Barriers" programme is addressing these problems in four countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Honduras and Burkina Faso. Thanks to EU match-funding, every £1 raised will be worth £5.

Breaking the Barriers seeks to improve rural women's working and living conditions and to raise their social status through access to Sustainable Energy Technologies (SET). An example of this includes the setting up of solar shops; solar-power is used to sell essentials such as water, and to offer mobile phone charging. The solar shops become the hub of the women's (self-help) group, where they can discuss problems together and run savings and loans schemes, funded by the profits from the shop.

Such groups allow women to work together on other income generating activities to support the group savings e.g. clearing farmland or (in the example of Ethiopia) selling coffee husk at the market. Women can submit individual proposals to the group to take a loan from the group savings e.g. for a medical emergency or to set up their own ˜spin-off" business e.g. goat fattening.

These groups are giving women a voice in their communities and raising their social status. They have received training e.g. in business skills and climate / farming related activities. They are trained to put up solar panels in their homes to encourage the use of renewable energy. Solar lamps replace firewood as the key energy source for lighting the home. This helps in numerous ways; children can study without risk to their health, there is less deforestation, the burden of women’s workload has reduced and their personal safety improved.

Breaking the Barriers was the focus of Christian Aid's 2018 Harvest Appeal, the main story is of a woman named Aster and her children from Ethiopia (pictured). For a diocesan appeal we could either tell Aster's story again, or that of another member of her women's group whose story has not been told. Alternatively we could describe the impact of Breaking the Barriers in one of the other three countries.