January 2009 - Destiny Roti Program

Empowering Women - Makai Tandoori Naan
by Sarah Saeed

The concept for the Destiny Roti program has grown from the need to build a more sustainable framework for women’s futures in earthquake affected areas of Pakistan. The program leads on from the Nokia-Karavan Crafts Centres (NKCC’s), a program that reaches out to women by engaging them in productive activity (traditional beadwork), a strategy devised to overcome trauma. Whilst the NKCC mobilised women to rebuild their lives, the Destiny Roti program further builds on the need to expand livelihood opportunities and therefore targets women from the NKCC who are motivated, display entrepreneurial skills and able to take on more challenges. These selected women are assisted in building roti kitchens from which they are able to make and sell roti’s at a larger scale and generate an income.

The program aims to:
• Develop alternative sustainable avenues for revenue generation.
• Generate livelihood opportunities.
• Develop a sense of ownership and pride.
• Build women’s capacity.
• Constantly develop existing skills so that the program can continually grow and improve.
• Achieve better hygienic conditions in the home environment.
• Generate an income.
• Improve women’s literacy and business skills.
• Increase self confidence and raise women’s status in the community.

Several strategies have been put in place to ensure that the program is sustainable for the future and achieves positive social development outcomes. These strategies include:

Careful Selection of Participants
Participants are carefully selected from already implemented programs to ensure that women are motivated and able to take on the new venture. This selection process has been initiated to ensure that the funds invested in construction are appropriately used, and kitchens are maintained for the future.

Participatory approaches
Women are required to contribute 25% of the cost (in the form of labour and some materials) in the construction of their kitchens. This is intended to develop a greater sense of ownership and break down current dependency on charity handouts in the area (as a result of post disaster aid relief). 50% of the cost of each kitchen unit is received as a grant by I-Led whilst the remainder of the costs, technical guidance and general administration is provided by Nokia-NSN Karavan Partnership.

Asset based approach
Like the NKCC program, The Destiny Roti program identifies existing skills in the community that have marketability, growth and development potential. This asset based approach is most beneficial for the participants because new skills do not have to be taught and implementation is often more efficient. Additionally existing skills can be mobilised to create new economic and social opportunities.

In this case women are skilled in producing roti’s in traditional earth ovens, specifically makai ki roti or cornbread, a staple food of the local Siran Valley communities. To date this activity has been undertaken within the family unit only. The Destiny roti program looks at ways to expand the activity and sell roti’s at a national level, initially to Abbottobad, Mansehra and Islamabad, and later to Lahore and Karachi.

Building Capacity
Even though existing skills have been targeted in shaping the program, there is a focus on continuously developing women’s skills so that the program can grow whilst women build their capacity and skill-sets. Currently literacy programs are being implemented, allowing women to take on more responsibility within the program. Hygiene workshops are also planned to train women in hygienic methods of cooking.

Reviving Local Techniques to Preserve Heritage and Promote Tourism
The bread of the Kodar area has been rated amongst the best ever tasted by foreigners who have worked in the area. It’s unique taste and texture can be attributed to its traditional processing, which involves local maize being ground in traditional water mills. However many of the water mills have collapsed and require reconstruction. Income generation from the program is expected to assist the community in reconstructing the mills. Additionally the water mills set against the mountainous terrain may have tourism potential if marketed as scenic picnic areas.

Respecting Local Culture
Women in the area traditionally have not earned an income, or spent time away from the home environment. The roti kitchens are therefore constructed adjacent to women’s existing homes to ensure easy accessibility and as a measure to respect cultural and social norms. Within this environment women are able to care for their children, run the household as well as use the kitchens at a time that best suits them.

Healthy Living
The kitchens are separated from the main house, allowing cooking and living spaces to function independently. Previously cooking and living was carried out within the one communal space, resulting in unhygienic living spaces. As part of the program workshops for women on personal hygiene and hygienic conditions during bread making will be organised.

The roti itself is considered a product desirable for healthy living. Professional packaging, and pasteurisation processing will ensure that the bread is nourishing and long-lasting.

Developing Quality Products
Quality control and assurance is vital to successfully market the roti to retailers. To achieve this, measures have been taken to ensure that cooking ingredients are fresh and roti’s are hygienically produced, packaged and transported. Once roti’s have been made by the women they will be transported to a nearby packaging centre where they will be pasteurised and vacuum packed. A cold chain will be established through cold storage and transportation in specially fitted air conditioned vans to distribution centres. It is intended that delivery of the bread will be made to health food stores, restaurants, guesthouses and other selected points.

The outcomes of the program to date are both tangible and intangible. They include:

Tangible outcomes
A total of 50 kitchens are being built, 30 of which have been completed by August 2008. The Packaging Centre has now been completed. Sample packaging was commenced in December 2008 from alternate locations. Preliminary marketing of the sample roti products is expected to begin in the last week of February 2009.

Intangible Outcomes
As a result of the roti program women are able to earn a sustainable income and build on their existing skills as product ranges expand. Whilst their self esteem and confidence has grown, women’s status in the community (especially amongst male community members) is elevated. Women are empowered to take on new challenges and are clearly more respected within their communities for having the confidence and skills to do so. Women’s active participation in the construction of their kitchens has developed in them a sense of ownership and thus responsibility for proper maintenance of the kitchens. Additionally the separation of cooking and living spaces has created cleaner and more hygienic living environments. Hygiene workshops has raised awareness of the importance of maintaining clean spaces for healthy living. The positive progress of the roti program has identified additional supporting programs that can assist women in fully taking advantage of their new venture. Currently literacy programs for women are being undertaken, which ultimately builds women’s capacity and skill sets enabling them to develop the program even further.