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Dimitra: Reducing rural poverty through participatory community mobilization

KEY IMPACTS

  • 1900 Dimitra Clubs (existing) with 57 000 members are transforming their environment, positively impacting more than 1.5 million people.
  • 38 000 women and girls’ leadership skills have been enhanced.
  • 133 Dimitra Clubs with almost 4 000 members were created in 100 isolated and poor villages in DR Congo under an EU-funded FAO-UNICEF joint project.
  • 30% of Clubs have set up communal agriculture fields.
  • 1 500 new Dimitra Clubs are expected in 2018.

FAO’s Dimitra project has been running in Africa for over 20 years. It has become a label of quality for improving gender equality and women’s visibility as agricultural producers and agents of change. The Dimitra Clubs’ approach, developed in the last ten years, is a signature approach that unites women, men and young people in collective action to create better lives.

By the end of 2017, an estimated 57 000 people, two-thirds of them women, were taking part in 1 900 clubs, which meet regularly to decide how to face key challenges, positively impacting an estimated 1.5 million people who benefit from the clubs’ activities.

In northeast Democratic Republic of Congo’s Tshopo Province, for example, the traditional Great Chief of the Chiefdom of Kombe sees the positive effects the clubs have had on gender and women’s leadership.

“Young people are taking part in the clubs and women are involved in decision-making. Women are now keen to stand as candidates for local council elections, which illustrates how female leadership has developed,”
he said. “For household tasks, a shift has started to emerge in the division of labour … Men are beginning to play a greater role, alleviating the burden of women’s daily list of chores.”

This has also led to a widely reported reduction in gender-based violence.

“It’s rare now to see things like beating or verbal abuses happening in the village,” said one midwife from Kwadarawa, Niger.

“Moreover, women are more in business than men; they spend all their time on income-generating activities.”

Similar changes are taking place across Africa, helping communities to engage in new social dynamics that have made them more resilient to climate change and food insecurity.

In Saré Boubou in Senegal, for example, club members discussed climate-smart agriculture techniques and took soil protection measures. Overall, 30 percent of clubs have set up communal agriculture fields, with products consumed or sold in local markets.

Positive changes are coming in other areas, such as infrastructure, education, health and the reduction of harmful cultural practices such as child marriage.

“Every woman can now express herself, we are able to do it, but also the rest of the village listens to us and values our proposals and ideas,” said Rougui Ba, a young Dimitra Club leader in Senegal. “It’s great to be able to take part in community decisions and actions.” A dramatic increase in clubs is expected in 2018, as other agencies and donors have selected the Dimitra approach as an empowerment and community mobilization tool. At least 1 200 news clubs are planned for 2018.