In our own hands

by Leonie Düngefeld

A story goes around the world (Issue III/2020)

Ketaaketi in Sierra Leone -

Project manager Yembeh Mansaray shows Anneli-Sofia Räcker from the NGO Ketaaketi the results of micro-financing: Women in Sierra Leone have bought goods for their village shop. Photo: Albert Rohloff

In Nepal, back in 2006, the Bremen-based psychotherapist Anneli-Sofia Räcker went on a journey. In the capital Kathmandu she met a girl begging on the street. Räcker asked what she would buy with the money. “An English dictionary,” replied the little girl. Räcker bought it for her. Shortly afterwards she met Rajesh Regmi, who was building a slum school in a garage. The two people's motivation combined felt like a starting signal, said Räcker, looking back.

For 14 years, Räcker has led the organization Ketaaketi (“Children”), which has 25 volunteers and 220 members in Germany. Ketaaketi is committed to development and educational opportunities for children, so far in Nepal, Sierra Leone and Burundi, following a partnership-based model of development cooperation, says Räcker. In 2019 she received the Federal Cross of Merit for her work.

The NGO fights against the image of the generous donor on the one hand and those in need on the other

Her starting principle is unique: Ketaaketi initiates the foundation of state-owned, autonomous NGOs. These select women's groups in individual villages who then receive interest-free micro-financing of one hundred euros per person, which is intended to provide a livelihood boost. The women buy goats, seeds or other goods, depending on the local context and their needs. In workshops they learn how to manage them. If the loan is repaid later, the money goes to the next village. With little money, Ketaaketi thus reaches more and more people without interfering in culturally specific working methods. There is only one condition: Those who participate must send their children to school. So far more than 2,000 families have benefited from this system. In Sierra Leone, where Ketaaketi has been active for around two years, 25 villages are already on a waiting list for microfinance. Solidarity is also strengthened, says Räcker: among the participants, who pass on the money, and among the project leaders, who support each other across borders.

But the Corona pandemic has caused problems, says project manager Rajesh Regmi from Nepal. For weeks, it has been almost impossible to leave the house, the slum school is closed. With the micro-financing, sewing machines are now being bought to sew face masks and school uniforms. Like all project managers, Regmi works free of charge, in addition to his day job at a travel company. For Anneli-Sofia Räcker that is a matter of principle. She deliberately selects project managers who have already been socially committed in their home country for years. “We expect self-determined and resource-oriented action,” she says. This is the only way to maintain respect for the expertise and creativity of the local people.

Ketaaketi fights against the image of the generous donor on the one hand and those in need on the other. “We only hear from these people when there are disasters, when we can help,” complains Räcker. “These countries' potential is not mentioned anywhere.” Instead of creating dependencies, a lobby for the poorest countries must be built up, she says, otherwise development cooperation is simply not “cooperation”.

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