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.
This conversation clearly exposes the complexities of resilience-building interventions and puts at the center of the debate a key objective of rural development which is sustainability.
In this sense, I wish to add an important perspective, which is gender and empowerment.
We all agree that women and men have specific and complementary roles in agricultural development. We all acknowledge that persistent gender inequalities in access to resources, services, information and knowledge are a key impediment to sustainable rural development. As a result, in relation to resilience, women and men might be exposed to different kinds of shocks and stressors and their coping strategies might differ as well. Bearing this in mind, it is crucial that development interventions are designed in a way that address these inequalities in a sustainable way. If we think about the temporal aspects of resilience, specific strategies and measures need to be put in place to prevent and respond to GBV as this extreme manifestation of gender inequality has devastating consequences (food insecurity, stigma, illness, collapse of social structures) which severely limits efforts in building resilience. Strategies should not solely consider women and men’s immediate vulnerabilities, but also addressing their specific needs and priorities. This often implies transforming gender relations and tackling power imbalances within households, communities and organizations. In this way resilient interventions become empowerment interventions, from survival to thrive: the more empowered women and men will be, the more resilient livelihoods they will be able to build.
FAO has longstanding experience in promoting participatory approaches that contribute to rural people’s empowerment, gender equality and resilience. The community-based and gender transformative approach of the FAO-Dimitra Clubs, is a good example of how rural women and men and entire rural communities take their development in hands and promote social cohesion and resilient livelihoods for all.
Thank you for sharing all these interesting insights! My name is Andrea and I work as part of the Dimitra Team at FAO: http://www.fao.org/dimitra/dimitra-clubs/en/
I have read with great attention other comments and I would like to add an important perspective to this conversation which is gender and people’s empowerment in the design and implementation of development initiatives that focus on ICTs.
The agenda 2030 focuses on “leaving no one behind”, including in the area of ICTs. Unfortunately the gender gap in ICTs is still a major concern worldwide. Constraints such as high costs, social norms and illiteracy hinder women’s chances to take full advantage of these enablers.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 64% of women, representing over 300 million, do not own a mobile phone. Even when women have access to mobile phones, their devices tend to be less sophisticated than those of men and their usage is less frequent as most of the time women tend to borrow mobile phones rather than owning them for self-use.
ICTs are great enablers for prosperity and economic growth but should not be considered as a development objective in itself. This means their usage in development initiatives should be accompanied by empowering processes of change that are inclusive and gender-responsive.
I just wanted to make sure this gender dimension is not forgotten when addressing ICTs in rural development. And also mention another geographical context (sub-Saharan Africa) in which FAO has been promoting a gender-transformative participatory communication approach called the Dimitra Clubs. These clubs are groups of rural women and men who meet, discuss their daily challenges and identify solutions together to overcome them. Access to information and networking is facilitated by the use of solar powered radios paired with mobile phones connected into a fleet. Thanks to these clubs, rural women and men and entire rural communities take their own development in hands by identifying their own priorities and implementing local solutions to improve their livelihoods.
An important element of this approach, worth sharing here, is that by combining capacity development processes with the use of ICTs the Dimitra Clubs greatly contribute to people’s empowerment, women’s leadership, collective action, social cohesion and gender equality.
Today, there are over 45,000 members (two thirds being women) in the 1,530 existing Dimitra Clubs in six countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (Burundi, DR Congo, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Senegal). It is estimated that over one million rural people benefit from the activities of the clubs.
I would like to share a link to some Dimitra videos (in French and English) showcasing the impact of this approach in different areas. http://www.fao.org/dimitra/dimitra-clubs/en/