Women’s NGOs are chang­ing the world

Tehran Times - - WOMEN - (Source: the­con­ver­sa­tion.com)

In con­tem­po­rary global de­vel­op­ment cir­cles, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) are now per­form­ing many more roles and ac­tiv­i­ties than they did a few decades ago.

NGOs work with govern­ments, com­mu­nity groups and the pri­vate sec­tor — to de­velop and im­ple­ment pro­grams, mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate their progress and help train peo­ple work­ing on those projects.

They’re con­sid­ered more nim­ble than other in­sti­tu­tions in ac­com­plish­ing de­vel­op­ment goals, be­cause they can reach the most vul­ner­a­ble or dis­af­fected peo­ple in a com­mu­nity and find in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to prob­lems.

Al­though their fund­ing streams and in­sti­tu­tional de­ci­sion-mak­ing struc­tures are typ­i­cally multi­na­tional, NGOs’ le­git­i­macy, in­deed, of­ten rests on per­cep­tions of them be­ing “lo­cal” and “close to the peo­ple.”

NGOs are in­creas­ingly tak­ing on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of im­ple­ment­ing the gen­der equal­ity and women’s em­pow­er­ment agen­das of the global de­vel­op­ment sec­tor.

But very rarely have re­searchers tried to un­der­stand or doc­u­ment the spe­cific chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties that NGOs work- ing on gen­der equal­ity, or those that de­fine them­selves as fem­i­nist NGOs or women’s NGOs, face — when par­tic­i­pat­ing in mul­ti­ple-stake­holder projects like Canada’s new fem­i­nist in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance pol­icy.

The United Na­tions’ Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals, adopted in 2015, and the Cana­dian ini­tia­tive that in­cludes $150 mil­lion in fund­ing for ad­vanc­ing the rights of women and girls, will un­doubt­edly in­crease the en­gage­ment of women’s NGOs in a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties.

That means un­der­stand­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties and con­straints faced by women’s NGOs in mul­ti­ple-stake­holder projects is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant.

Women’s NGOs in In­dia and Tan­za­nia

We’re bas­ing our ob­ser­va­tions upon re­search con­ducted over the past decade in In­dia, where women’s NGOs were in­volved in de­liv­er­ing ur­ban ba­sic ser­vices like wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion and elec­tric­ity, and in Tan­za­nia, where women’s NGOs helped de­liver com­mu­nity health and mi­croen­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment ser­vices.

In both con­texts, we found that women’s NGOs played cru­cial roles in de­vel­op­ment projects, of­ten mo­bi­liz­ing, or­ga­niz­ing and build­ing projects that oth­er­wise would never have launched.

In In­dia, for ex­am­ple, women’s NGOs in the state of Gu­jarat mo­bi­lized lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to par­tic­i­pate in ur­ban de­vel­op­ment projects. They helped form com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions to rep­re­sent lo­cal in­ter­ests and im­ple­mented com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment projects — such as health ser­vices, adult lit­er­acy and child care.

Women’s NGOs also con­ducted re­search to de­ter­mine whether lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties could af­ford to pay for ba­sic ur­ban ser­vices.

They ne­go­ti­ated sub­si­dies, fair pric­ing and flex­i­ble terms of pay­ment with util­i­ties on be­half of marginal­ized peo­ple. They ar­ranged ac­cess to loans from mi­cro­fi­nance in­sti­tu­tions for house­holds that could not cover the cost of wa­ter or elec­tric­ity con­nec­tions.

And by in­sist­ing that wa­ter and elec­tric­ity bills be is­sued in the names of fe­male heads of house­holds, women’s NGOs strength­ened women’s ac­cess to prop­erty and hous­ing.

The NGOs also ed­u­cated stake­hold­ers about the re­al­i­ties of life for the ur­ban poor, and shared lessons learned in one ur­ban area with NGOs in other cities in In­dia.

In Tan­za­nia, we stud­ied the com­mu­nity part­ner role played by a women’s NGO in a project de­liv­er­ing health and mi­croen­ter­prise ser­vices across East Africa.

The project, which brought to­gether the Tan­za­nian govern­ment, pub­lic re­search and med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions, in­ter­na­tional char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions, com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions and ben­e­fi­cia­ries, en­vi­sioned the es­tab­lish­ment of com­mu­nity kitchens across East Africa to pro­duce pro­bi­otic yogurt.

The yogurt would be sold for profit and dis­trib­uted for free to cer­tain vul­ner­a­ble groups, in­clud­ing chil­dren with nu­tri­tional de­fi­cien­cies and peo­ple liv­ing with HIV/AIDS.

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