Ernas Women’s Centre
The Ernas Women’s Association was formed in January 2012 on the Erakor Peninsula near Port Villa, in Vanuatu. The women aimed to form a co-operative, selling cooked food in the evenings from a road side stall, and supporting each other as mothers and market vendors.
It was obvious that this would not make a great deal of money, but just enough to get their children to school and to feed their families. The group quickly grew to over 100 members, and they began to diversify. Some of the women learned sewing, while others are learning to make jewellery.
They didn’t however have a workspace, and many had no access to electricity. Through hard work and the help of some friends, the women have leased a small block of land, and were given the engineering plans for an earthbag roundhouse, designed to suit a tropical climate in a high seismic zone.
In March 2013, they began digging the foundations using hand tools, and their building has since become a community project, attracting volunteers from Australia, America and Europe. The women are now planning a preschool building, realising that they are not able to sew and make food and jewellery if their youngest children are not looked after. It is so important that the younger children are looked after, so that their older children can go to school.
All the money for this project has been raised without assistance from any charity, government agency or church. Many of the women are away from family and support, having moved from different islands in the region. As a community, they are an example of an emerging Vanuatu Ã¢â¬â using every available resource to provide their children with a future, while working in a modern village with traditional values.