Rural Institutions, Services and Empowerment


RISE’s Work Area on Community Engagement for Empowerment supports rural communities in becoming agents of change to transform their own environments and lives. This is achieved by strengthening rural people’s individual and collective agency and action, with a strong emphasis on gender issues and the inclusion of the most excluded and marginalized.

For more than a decade, FAO has pioneered the Dimitra Clubs as a community engagement and gender transformative approach in over 50 development and humanitarian assistance programmes. The Dimitra Clubs are informal groups of rural women and men of all ages who discuss their common challenges and take collective action to overcome them using their own resources. In 2022, over 7 500 Dimitra Clubs exist in more than 15 countries of subSaharan Africa, as well as in Asia and Latin America. They have a total of 225 000 members (60 percent of whom are women), and their actions are estimated to benefit more than six million rural people.


The purpose of the Work Area on Community Engagement for Empowerment is to ensure that the rural communities of developing countries, including the most vulnerable and marginalized, can equally seize socioeconomic opportunities and play an active role in community decision making processes. The desired impact is to contribute to gender equality and rural poverty reduction.


Within this Work Area, the community-led approach of the Dimitra Clubs facilitates dialogue, knowledge exchange, problem solving and collective action, supporting participants to voice their needs, strengthen their agency and participate in decision-making and local governance. The process stimulates improved resilience, social cohesion and peace, as well as behavioural changes, including regarding gender discriminatory social norms. It also promotes networking among villages and local actors through improved communication and the use of information and communication technologies.
Target Group/Stakeholders  

Community engagement approaches are by nature inclusive and encourage the participation of all community members who want to become more involved in the development of their communities. The target group/stakeholders are community members; local non-governmental organizations; community-based organizations and producer organizations; community radio stations; traditional and local authorities; and decentralized governmental services.     

Support Provided 

  • Knowledge generation:  Developing communication and methodological products regarding the area of work and the Dimitra Clubs model, and undertaking evidence based participatory research on community engagement approaches and their impact;

  • Advocacy: Conducting advocacy activities to increase the recognition of the importance of community engagement approaches in “leaving no one behind”;

  • Partnerships: Establishing partnerships to strengthen the uptake and scaling up of community engagement approaches;

  • Capacity development: Providing training on gender, participatory communication, participatory monitoring and evaluation, development and technical topics;

  • Technical support and advice: Providing technical support and advice on the use and adaptation of gender transformative community-led approaches.