Demotech, design for self reliance

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Publications by Demotech : Appropriate for Women
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Appropriate for Women

What makes a technology appropriate?

Technology can only be called "Appropriate", if it is appropriate for women.
Demotech composed a report in the shape of an illustrated manual about the field experience gathered from 1979 till 1986. The Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation sponsored Demotech during the first years of that period. This report had to be as clear and meaningful to the people we worked with, as to the development experts who had to evaluate our work.

We wanted to explain with pictures the actual situation we encountered, then report what we did or experienced, also with illustrations, and then conclude with a summarized statement. In thirteen parts we covered separate aspects of Appropriate Technology, centering on what was 'Appropriate for Women'.

Our two most important findings: it is easy and effective to incorporate women in technical developments, when the right technical approach is chosen. And it is hard to prevent technical information that is especially designed to suit the local situation, from being misinterpreted by development organizations.


David Werner, author of "Where There Is No Doctor", wrote this introduction during my visit to his project Prohimo in Ayola in Mexico. Meanwhile, I worked on a wheelchair elevator for his project.

The Reality of Development in the Third World
Self-reliance is the backbone of traditional societies. Therefore, when problems arise that they cannot fix themselves, help needs to be provided in a form whereby they can continue to be self-reliant.

The Shortcomings of Current Technology
Traditional technologies can seldom cope with today?s needs, and industrial technologies cannot function without a western infrastructure. Therefore there is need for a more appropriate technology - one that is appropriate for its users, and is based on the reality of the situation where it is to be implemented.

A Design for Self-Reliance: the Rope-Pump
The Demotech rope-pump as an example of a technical solution that has been designed in accordance with the principles of Appropriate Technology

Appropriate Technology: How It Has Spread
Many people have been inspired to copy the design of the rope-pump, especially in Indonesia and Nicaragua, a fact that proves the ?appropriateness? of its design.

Improving a Design for Self-Reliance
Designs for self-reliance invite adaptations by individual users. Such adaptations should be carefully noted, so that when such an adaptation conveys a significant improvement to the initial design it can be incorporated into the said design and so can benefit subsequent users.

Impairing a Design for Self-Reliance
Some adaptations do not improve the initial design, especially if the sole basis for the adaptation is the introduction of a more modern looking component, or a western technical detail. Generally speaking, this results in an impaired performance of the technology.

Making Self-Reliance Impossible
Publications on appropriate technology often place far too little emphasis on the need for accuracy of technical information, resulting in inaccurate information being printed. Even partially incorrect information can result in non-functioning equipment.

Inspiring the Village
A whole village can become involved with the making and installation of a rope-pump. The whole community then has ownership of the pump, which is ultimately beneficial to all. An appropriate division of tasks among the people involved ensures that no one group is entirely dependent on any other.

Inspiring the Women
The participation of women in the construction of the rope-pump is very important, as they are the primary water-collectors. It can become an opportunity for them to gain independence in technical matters.

Designing for Women
A particular detail of construction can sometimes relate to a specifically male profession, or skill. Such details can prevent women acting on their own initiative. Therefore, devices used mainly by women should be (re)designed to enable women to do upkeep and repair.

Empowering the Women
Giving women the opportunity to master the technology associated with the rope-pump helps to empower them and to prevent unnecessary dependence on men. Designs for self-reliance can and should support this.

The Role of the Designer
Designers need to approach the problem of design of appropriate technology from a very different point of view than their Western design framework,. The reality of the situation for which they are designing really needs to be investigated thoroughly and fully taken into account. Policy makers, also, need to gain experience with the potential of a design approach directed at self-reliance.

Publications by Demotech : Appropriate for Women
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