Women, Mobilisation, and Empowerment
This issue of the Drum Beat is inspired by International Women's Day (IWD). Each March 8th since the early 1900s, events have been held to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. The official IWD website includes details about activities from around the world - ranging from large-scale global initiatives to local political rallies, business conferences, government activities, networking events, theatre performances, and more.
Below we highlight some of the summaries from our various knowledge sections that illuminate the intersections between IWD and gender issues, with a specific focus on the empowerment and social mobilisation of women.
- SOCIAL MOBILISATION strategies and stories.
- Participate in CI POLLS!
- Why empowerment matters: IMPACT examples.
- Interested in communication and health?: NEW C-Change Picks WEBSITE!
- Initiatives focused on MERIT AND THE MEDIA.
by Juan-Carlos Arita
This paper shows how Colectiva de Mujeres Hondureñas (CODEMUH), a grassroots women's collective in Honduras, mobilised a popular movement around labour rights in the country's textile factories, or maquilas. Focusing on occupational health, CODEMUH ran a campaign to demand respect and protection of labour rights which included: research, training, and advocacy workshops for the women themselves; building alliances locally, nationally, and internationally; and involving key journalists and the media. An internal training programme worked to enhance the skills of women members who had shown potential in leading lobby activities, dealing with the press, or negotiating with maquila owners or public authorities. This "Advocacy School" combined workshops and fieldwork to apply tools and knowledge on lobbying and advocacy work. One outcome was the organisation of an advocacy team formed by 7 women to shape and implement CODEMUH's campaign on occupational health. CODEMUH wanted working women to see themselves as key agents of social and economic development. It also aimed to enhance their capacity to air their views and demand respect for their rights, particularly regarding health and safety conditions in the factories. Amongst the lessons learned: "...any advocacy-training programme for women's organisations needs to be aware that building women's confidence and leadership skills and ensuring that their voices are heard is as important as developing technical skills and knowledge..."
The Huairou Commission is a global coalition of networks, institutions, and individual professionals that supports and validates grassroots women's contributions to development, and that links grassroots women's community development organisations to partners, resources, information, political space, and on-the-ground practice. One focus is on strengthening the capacity, resource position, and collaboration of local women's organisations and their affiliated regional and global networks by building and sharing a knowledge base of methods women have pioneered and by devising, disseminating, and evaluating peer learning methods for horizontal technical assistance and up-streaming of knowledge and information. In addition, the Commission works to increase grassroots women's participation in the decision-making processes impacting their lives, with a special focus on political participation. This involves disseminating tools and organising approaches that enable grassroots women to assume a broader range of leadership roles, and developing regional capacity to train grassroots women to use global and international development frameworks as advocacy tools for poverty alleviation, participatory and responsive governance, and human-centred sustainable community development.
by Motahar Akand
This report examines one component of the work of Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), a legal and human rights resource centre created in 1986 in Bangladesh to promote principles of gender equity, social justice, human rights, and the rule of law. As detailed here, ASK has formed Action Theatre groups, or Manobadhikar Natya Parishad (MNP), in villages in 12 areas throughout Bangladesh. These groups initiate discussion, debate, analysis, and actions on critical human rights issues in their community. For example, one action theatre group carried out informal research in the village, and discovered that at least 3 families were suffering because women who divorced their husbands were unaware of their legal rights. The group organised a workshop on the issue and developed a story involving an imaginary character named Rehana whose husband "had tortured her almost everyday" but refused her plea for divorce because he mistakenly thought that if he divorced her, he must repay the dower money..." On the day of the performance, the facilitator stopped the play just at the moment when Rehana (who had finally decided to divorce her husband) and her brothers were insulted and kicked out of the husband's house (having gone to ask for the dower money). He asked the audience, "Will Rehana get the dower money if she goes to court?" Most of the audience answered "no." Some were silent, and one woman said "yes." After a long discussion, the audience remained divided. A decision was made to send 5 people from each side to meet a lawyer who worked with one of ASK's local partners. This meeting took place one day after the drama. Participants learned that the woman who divorced her husband has full rights to the dower money. "Now, everybody in Shialcole Village knows that the wife should be paid the dower money even if she chooses to divorce her husband."
by Andrea Cristina Mercado and Ai-jen Poo
This case study of 2 domestic workers' organisations - Domestic Workers United (DWU) and Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) - and the new National Alliance of Domestic Workers that they recently helped form, highlights some lessons from this growing movement. Domestic worker leadership development and democratic decision-making processes characterise the communication strategies informing MUA's activities. MUA draws on the strengths of Latina immigrant women as peer mentors, group facilitators, community educators, and organisers. Women approaching MUA for support are encouraged to become a member and attend weekly group meetings. After 3 to 6 months of participation, members have the opportunity to take part in MUA's Meeting Facilitator and Peer Counselling training. The Caring Hands Workers' Association offers members job skills training in the childcare and home health care sectors, combined with workers' rights courses that prepare Latina immigrants to defend their rights and obtain greater economic independence and security. New and emerging leaders are encouraged to take part in MUA's annual 8 week leadership course and 4 month training, "Leadership and Unity for Community Power," which provides political theory and organising skills to prepare MUA members to participate in the Comite Corazon. At the centre of MUA's political work, this Campaign Coordinating "Heart" Committee is tasked with leading participatory processes to identify campaigns and is responsible for making key decisions on how to advance the work.
by Ahalya S. Bhat, Suman Kolhar, Nageena Nikhat Khaleel, Padmini Ananth, and Ananda H.
This publication from the Singamma Sreenivasan Foundation (SSF) explores the spaces India has created for women's empowerment through political participation. The report features strategies, examples, and case studies illustrating how elected women representatives (EWRs) have ensured that their voices are heard within the different tiers of local government in India. One specific SSF strategy is building collectives of EWRs so that they can assert their voices more effectively within the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) of which they are members. As part of the project called "Associating Elected Women Representatives in Local Self Government", SSF initiated federating EWRs into an association. Knowledge was pooled and harmonised across 4 partners, across 4 states. A composite newsletter, "Shared Spaces", has been published to highlight project activities and provide a physical and institutional means for the network to stay connected. Taluk-, district-, and state level information centres feature resource windows designed to help the women members gain information related to the PRI system, the political parties, procedures for contesting elections, methods of filling out forms, and so on. Going beyond a capacity-building effort, this initiative aims to build a movement of women leaders to address issues as their own by creating a problem solving and support forum, by facilitating experience exchange and peer learning, and by institutionalising a gender perspective.
Share your voice in an instant...by quickly participating in one or more of The CI's polls! Located on the right side of each of our theme sites, the polls help you not only quickly weigh in on pressing issues but also see what your colleagues think. Once you vote, each time you visit our website while logged in, you will be able to see how the votes are dividing up. A visually efficient way to keep your finger on the pulse of the communication for development community!
Democracy and Governance - click here.
Media Development - click here.
ICT4D - click here.
HIV/AIDS - click here.
Polio - click here.
Early Child Development - click here.
Natural Resource Management - click here.
Avian Influenza - click here.
Change Initiatives explores innovative uses of databases in the local language with the hope of educating and empowering economically poor women in the rural regions of the Indian state of Bengal. The emphasis is on building a framework for information sharing, content creation, and off-line information dissemination. The goal is to create a strong network of women with the voice and capacity to participate fully in society - economically and otherwise. As the process has evolved since its inception, Change Initiatives started taking information and communication technology (ICT) to uneducated women in rural areas. Telecentre on Wheels (TOW) is a customised tricycle (rickshaw) equipped with a solar panel and necessary hardware, such as a laptop computer, printer, power panels, facilities for digital photography, etc. A resource person and selected community members from each of 4 villages were trained so they could use TOW to help villagers access public information on health and hygiene, literacy, adult education, agriculture, human rights, and civil laws in the local language, Bengali. Using ethnographic action research techniques, this project determines local needs and examines the transformation in village life through ICT. "The community has found that a more empowered, knowledgeable and confident woman empowers her society by facilitating the process of collective decision-making at the family level and in the community." As a result, organisers suggest, younger women feel they are able to approach the job market with greater confidence. There has also been solidarity - for as the women learn computers together, they also often discuss their problems, creating a sense of unity among them and also bringing forth their latent leadership qualities.
Contact: Jhumpa Ghosh Ray email@example.com
by Awino Okech
GROOTS Kenya works within 4 thematic areas to carry out peer learning exchanges, to amplify the voices of grassroots communities, to provide capacity-building, to undertake advocacy, and to conduct outreach and networking. One of these areas involves building women's capacity to negotiate and navigate community and national decision-making processes. The author observes that the "The capacity building process...seems to have yielded fruit. Muthia of the GMMDC asserts that their connection with GROOTS Kenya has developed the ability of their members to play critical roles within local leadership structures." Okech goes on to explain that the grassroots work of GROOTS Kenya and its affiliated organisations has not adopted protest-oriented action as a key mechanism to achieving their goals; instead, emphasis has been laid on lobbying and advocacy. Several examples of this participation - at not only the local, but the international level as well - from Muthia's perspective (and in her words) follow within the text. Summing up the key achievement, she says, "[t]he fact that we have been able to send grassroots women to international conferences - UN meetings in New York and Geneva to speak has changed the perceptions around grassroots women and their capacities to contribute to local, national and global debates."
by Marusia López Cruz
In this article, Marusia López Cruz details the process of formation of the National Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Women (Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas, CNMI), which she claims has led participating women "to empower themselves in different spheres of life. In their families they can now negotiate new arrangements with regards to raising and caring for their children, because their increasing involvement in organizations and in political life requires reducing their excessive work load in the home and family. Many of these women have begun to exert more leadership in positions of community authority and in mixed organizations in the national indigenous movement....In the international sphere, the leadership and presence of indigenous women has increased considerably..." CNMI leaders have, she argues, not only "translated" the strengths of the feminist movement into indigenous languages and world views, but also returned to their communities following their terms in order to take action - i.e., by strengthening women's local participation and organisation (thereby "taking on a struggle in the context of their own reality that could hardly be led by mestiza feminists").
Stressing the value of examining sustainable development through a gender perspective, this United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) publication explores specific policies, strategies, and practices in environmental use and conservation. The purpose of the book is to make the often hidden links between women and the environment visible, with an explicit focus on the gender-related aspects of land, water, and biodiversity conservation and management. Throughout the book, specific illustrations are included to highlight the ways in which women contribute to the well-being and sustainable development of their communities and nations, and to the maintenance of the earth's ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources.
This publication, offered by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)'s Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, advocates for increased attention to the particular ways in which women worldwide are vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. Amongst the strategies proposed in this report are the following: ensure that more women are included at the tables of forums where AIDS policies are decided, strategies forged, and funds allocated; and invest more in training women, especially those living with HIV, to be effective advocates and leaders in the AIDS response. The Global Coalition offers the following example of the power of women's participation: "The Viet Nam Women's Union (VWU), which has a membership of 13 million women and a presence in every commune throughout the country, has made AIDS prevention one of its core priorities in promoting the welfare of women and families. Through the foundation of over 300 community-based Empathy Clubs, the VWU supports individuals and families living with HIV to come together for mutual support and to access treatment, counselling, and micro-credit. The VWU produces its own brand of Hello and Yes condoms, empowering women to discuss condom use and reducing misconceptions that condoms are just for commercial sex. Its influence and outreach have already resulted in programmes to increase women's access to reproductive health services and strengthened the government's ability to improve the AIDS response for society as a whole."
VISIT AND SUBSCRIBE TO C-CHANGE PICKS - click here.
C-Change Picks is a new website which features selections of projects, evaluations, strategic thinking, resources, and events and meetings included on The CI website that have been specifically highlighted by the C-Change programme. Funded by USAID, C-Change works with global, regional, and local partners to apply behaviour change and social change communication approaches in the health sector - HIV and AIDS, family planning and reproductive health, malaria, and primary health care - and is expanding to the environmental sector.
Visit C-Change Picks! click here.
In anticipation and honour of IWD 2008, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) carried out a series of women's rights activities as part of a 2-day celebration in Manta, Ecuador. UNIFEM organised meetings and debates between members of the constitutional assembly and the Ecuadorian women's movement of Manta. On March 5 and 6, women of this movement and assembly members analysed topics that are the most worrisome to Ecuadorian women in the face of the new constitution. Debates and expositions during these two days concluded with a Caravan for Women's Rights that circled from Manta to Montecristi, the country's legislative centrepoint. In order to call attention to the importance of events related to IWD celebrated in Manta and Montecritsti, UNIFEM installed a zeppelin (a rigid airship) at a few metres' distance from the Constitution Assembly. Written on the airborne is the campaign slogan (in Spanish), which can be translated as "Us in the Constitution: Equality, Parity, Justice, and No Discrimination." This eye-catching element inspired the local media to write stories about the week. In addition, UNIFEM launched a national photography contest on March 7, using mail, fax, and advertising graphics to encourage submissions of photos addressing gender equality and women's rights. UNIFEM set up an exposition in the Metropolitan Cultural Center of Quito to display the 30 best photos so that they might have the greatest possible diffusion among the general public.
by Homa Hoodfar
This paper outlines how advocates in Iran have worked toward mobilising women and building a robust women's movement. For instance, there had been a call for a rally for gender equality in front of the Majlis (Parliament) to mark IWD 2007. Prior to this event, many of the leaders of the movement had organised a demonstration in front of the court, in support of those who were arrested in an earlier demonstration, to insist that peaceful protests and the right to organise and demonstrate were granted to all citizens under the constitution. The security forces arrested 35 of the women; the arrest became an international headline. In a gesture of defiance, many women went ahead with the March 8th demonstration in front of the Majlis, while others organised meetings in large and small venues, and hundreds of other women's gatherings were held in private homes with placards and posters, photographs of which were then posted on various websites and blogs. One European reporter announced that Iranian women had revitalised IWD in Europe "since journalists had stopped reporting on the day's events for a decade. Iranian women, with their global networks, have become very savvy in getting around government censorship by using international media. They have put themselves on the political map and are a force to be reckoned with." Hoodfar concludes that women's individual acts of resistance have continued, and often render state attempts to control and repress ineffective.
World Pulse is a media organisation that covers global issues through the eyes of women, "an international network connecting women and men across borders and building a rising pulse of women's empowerment across the globe." World Pulse publishes a magazine and hosts an interactive community newswire called PulseWire, where women worldwide, including those using internet cafes in rural areas, can connect and make their voices heard. In 2009, World Pulse is launching a "Voices of Our Future" contest to build a new international women's correspondent programme. The call goes out to those interested in learning to use new media to "speak for ourselves to the world, transform our communities, and change our lives. Emphasis is placed on the world's least heard regions. After being selected, the  Correspondents will embark on a four-month 'virtual' journey on the frontiers of new media and women's empowerment." [Deadline: March 14 2009]
As part of its capacity-building programme, FEMNET is offering an internship to female students (both local and international) and to those who have just completed their studies and are looking for experience and mentorship in the area of African women's human rights, gender mainstreaming, African feminist movements, and communications. Deadline: Rolling.
This issue of The Drum Beat was written by Kier Olsen DeVries.
The Drum Beat seeks to cover the full range of communication for development activities. Inclusion of an item does not imply endorsement or support by The Partners.
Please send material for The Drum Beat to the Editor - Deborah Heimann firstname.lastname@example.org
To reproduce any portion of The Drum Beat, click here for our policy.
To subscribe, click here.