My name is Mauro Bottaro and I work for the Dimitra project of FAO.
On behalf of my team, I would like to address the issue of women's leadership, one of the topics that most frequently arises in this very interesting discussion. Indeed, a fundamental condition for women’s empowerment is their autonomous and full participation in the development dynamics, both at household and community level. In order for all this to happen, women need to acquire self-esteem, capacity to recognize, identify, argue and expose their needs and also take necessary actions to overcome economic and social barriers to meet those needs.
As already mentioned by my colleague Andrea Sánchez in an earlier intervention, Dimitra Clubs’ participatory communication is an endogenous social mobilization approach: women and men inform and communicate, each according to her/his specific capacities, roles, responsibilities and needs. It is a process that enables communities to envisage, define and pursue their own transformation and development practices, where special attention is given to vulnerable or marginalized groups, such as women and youth.
This approach ensures that specific conditions are created so that leaders can emerge, whether men, women or young people. As a result, Dimitra Clubs allow rural women to improve their self-esteem and fully participate in community life. Many of them have seized that opportunity and have gradually taken up a leading role within households, formal and informal organizations and communities.
Some examples on women’s leadership:
- In DR Congo, in the village of Yanongé, Maguy Atilomoi was one of the first women to get involved in the clubs approach. She is a young woman and mother of two from a modest rural family, who gradually made her way up until she became President of the Producers Organization, Vice President of the Yanongé Producers Union and Dimitra Club moderator. She also supports the activities of about 15 clubs in her area, by visiting them once a week and giving advice to members to help them move forward. Maguy makes a living thanks to farming. She farms groundnuts, palm nuts and a local vegetable called niebé. This is a demanding activity but she still finds time to attend school: “I am attending a farming school where I learn agriculture techniques. I am an agronomist, I work like men,” Maguy said.
In some cases, women of the Dimitra Clubs have also acquired specific skills that have led them to develop a political leadership:
- In Niger, Ramatou Issouf - member of the Dimitra Club of Wadata in the village of Wadai - became president of the local office of a political party. She also decided to be a candidate in the municipal elections. She is 46 years old and has four daughters. She mentioned that she developed oratory skills and the capacity to argue with relevance through the Dimitra Clubs.
- In Niger, in the village of Falwel, seven women, members of the local Dimitra Club have been candidates for local elections.
As previously mentioned by my colleague Yannick De Mol, Dimitra also produced a video series to illustrate the dynamic nature of the Dimitra Clubs and the impact that they can achieve. Other examples on women’s leadership can be found in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6cPjEYzC8I&feature=youtu.be