A path to homeownership
Women who work in flour factories peeling cassava, many of whom live in Brazil, endure conditions of semi-slavery. Their homes have no basic water and sewer infrastructure, and they live in extreme poverty, with an average monthly income less than half the minimum wage – depending on how much cassava they manage to peel.
Many women start in the factories as children, so their chances of educational success are extremely low: 20% are illiterate and 75% have an incomplete primary education, leaving them functionally illiterate. Their poverty and social disadvantage are due to a combination of factors, including gender inequality and a lack of job opportunities, self-esteem, collective organisation and knowledge of their rights.
This project’s main objective was to integrate various social development programmes in the Goitá Basin of northeastern Brazil to combat the extreme poverty, gender inequality and precarious housing conditions of women who peel cassava in the local flour mills. It focused on strengthening community organisation, addressing gender issues, increasing financial sustainability and building homes for women-led families, which account for almost all households in this group of workers.
Led by Habitat for Humanity Brazil, the project involved building decent and affordable houses and providing mortgages to 25 women employed in a cassava factory. The houses were built to be safe and compliant with all government construction requirements.
The new homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments went into a revolving fund used to build or renovate more Habitat houses. In addition to the monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invested one day per week of their own labour – or “sweat equity” – in building their own and others’ Habitat homes. The project did not stop when the 25th house was built. Habitat worked with the participating families to find pathways out of poverty and to help others achieve similar results through community organisation and collective action. Habitat for Humanity Brazil helps build not only houses but also communities, encouraging families served by the programme to become local facilitators and leaders.