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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Rural women: striving for gender transformative impacts

Andrea Sánchez Enciso

Dear all, the FAO Dimitra team would like to share with you the experience of the Dimitra Clubs in relation to question 2 and 3.

Over the past ten years, the FAO-Dimitra project has implemented a successful participatory approach called the Dimitra Clubs based on gender equality and community mobilization in order to facilitate rural people’s empowerment, without leaving anyone behind.

The Dimitra Clubs are spaces for dialogue and action at community level. They are informal groups of women, men and youth– mixed or not – that meet regularly to discuss the problems they face in their daily lives, express their needs, identify their priorities and challenges, exchange their experiences with other clubs, make informed choices and take collective action to solve these problems using their own resources.

The clubs have achieved impact at various levels. They proved to be successful in improving women and men’s access to information, resources, markets, credit and extension services and helping informal groups to transform or join formal producers’ organizations. The approach has promoted rural people’s empowerment, community mobilization and social cohesion, community dialogue, as well as better nutrition and sanitation practices, education for the girl child, behavioral changes and collective action, including on resilience and social protection.

In particular, the clubs have boosted the self-esteem and leadership of rural women, encouraged more equitable relations between women and men, thus improving the quality of life of rural households and small farmers. They have also led many rural communities to put an end to harmful practices - such as gender-based violence - and contributed to improving rural women’s access to decision-making at local level (in rural organizations, for example).

Today there are more than 1 600 Dimitra Clubs in six sub-Saharan countries: Niger, DR Congo, Senegal, Ghana, Burundi and Mali.

Transformative change can be achieved if interventions that aim to empower women are not solely focused on empowering women economically. Interventions must also aim to trigger processes of change that gradually lead to changes in behaviours and social norms that continue to impede women to progress on an equal foot as men.