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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Rural women: striving for gender transformative impacts

Joy Muller
Joy MullerCERAH -- Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian ActionSwitzerland

I would think that communities need to provide opportunities -- such as platforms/foras -- that allow women to exchange their experiences and knowledge for them to help each other, grow, and thrive together.

Allow me to use the Mothers’ Club set up by the Togolese Red Cross as an example, with an analysis that I did in 2015.

According to the Human Development Report 2014 (UNDP, 2014), Togo’s Human Development Index value for 2013 is 0.473— which is in the low human development category—positioning the country at 166 out of 187 countries and territories.  To improve local living conditions, the Togolese Red Cross (TRC) since 2000 has set up the Mothers’ Clubs in different regions of the country to engage mothers in activities aiming to improve their well-beings. 

The two goals of this set-up serve not only as incentive but also as the expected outcome of public values shared by the TRC and mothers (and their family): one is for improved community health, and the other for better socio-economic development for women. 

As Togo has a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.579, ranking it 127 out of 149 countries in the 2013 index. (UNDP, 2014).  It is not enough for mothers only to share the value with the TRC: before joining the Club, many of them have to get the consent from their husbands.  Only when their husbands recognise the potential benefits of the shared value, women are able to join and become an active members to receive training.  Thus the authorising environment is composed of, in a general term, women and men in the communities.

The TRC’s volunteers living in local communities.  Through their own community’s Mothers’ Club, they provide training to its members.  The volunteers in this case represent the 1st level operational capacity as they provide awareness-raising on community health (including mother and infant health, prenatal and postnatal health care, family planning, HIV & AIDS prevention, malaria control and diarrhoeal illness control), and sanitation and hygiene education (i.e. waste management, well-mock etc.), as well as micro credit management.  Mothers when trained then become the 2nd level operational capacity as they are then capable to share their knowledge with their family and others in the same community who are not member of the Mothers’ Club.

Mothers then become a contributor to local development with the knowledge they shared and effort they invest in the community. When the communities experience the benefits, men are more likely to give approval to their wives to join the Club and as a result enlarge the authorising environment.  As a consequence, with more women joining the Club, the operational capacity can increase for better public value outcomes.  

I hope this is clear.  With best regards,

Joy