Rural Institutions, Services and Empowerment


RISE’s Work Area on Community Engagement for Empowerment, through the participatory process of 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, with a strong emphasis on the inclusion of women, youth and the most excluded within communities.  

For more than a decade, FAO has pioneered the Dimitra Clubs as a community engagement and a 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 challenges and take collective action to overcome them using their own resources. In 2021, more than 6 500 Dimitra Clubs exist in sub-Saharan Africa, with 195 000 members (60 percent are women). Their actions are estimated to have benefited more than six million rural people. 


The purpose of the Work Area on Community Engagement for Empowerment is to ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalized in rural areas of developing countries can equally seize socio-economic opportunities and actively participate in community decision-making processes and local governance. 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 and participate in decision-making and local governance. The process stimulates improved resilience, social cohesion and peace as well as behavioral changes, including regarding gender discriminatory social norms. It also promotes networking among villages and actors through improved communication and the use of information and communication technologies. 
Target Group/Stakeholders  

This approach is voluntary and open to any community member. The target group/stakeholders are 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 clubs’ impact; 

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

  • Partnerships: Establishing partnerships to strengthen the uptake and scaling up of the approach; 

  • 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 approaches.