Women's Empowerment & Active Citizenship
Coady Innovation Series No. 20
The Coady Institute’s Innovation series, launched in 2015, showcases the work of Coady faculty, associates, and partners. Acting as a bridge between academic and practitioner worlds, the Coady Institute contributes new ideas, new ways of putting ideas into practice and innovative ways of creating transformative experiences in our educational programs. ISSN 1701-1590 © Coady Institute Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ca/ All or parts of this publication may be copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes without requesting written permission, provided the author(s) and the Coady Institute are explicitly acknowledged as the source of the material. Any work adapted from this material must also be made available to others under identical terms. The work presented in this report was carried out with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of Global Affairs Canada or the Government of Canada. The Coady Institute St. Francis Xavier University PO Box 5000 Antigonish, NS Canada B2G 2W5
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INTRODUCTION The Coady Institute partners with five organizations to implement the ENGAGE program in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Tanzania. A key component of the Engage program is the priority placed on creating a co-learning environment whereby the partner organizations have ongoing opportunities to share their expertise, learn from each other, and collectively explore new ideas, techniques and tools. The annual Learning Forum is one of the venues for this collaborative learning process. The 2021 Learning Forum was comprised of six online workshops held over a four-week period through October to early November. Representatives from each partner organization participated in the planning process and took the lead on presenting a topic and facilitating discussions linking to asset-based development, feminism, social enterprise and climate resilience. The workshops brought over 30 senior leaders, staff, participants and volunteers from our six organizations. This diversity of thought, contexts, and approaches contributed to a dynamic environment and dialogue. Despite being separated by thousands of kilometers, we came together virtually and shared our common concerns. The conversations ranged from what feminism looks like in our organizations and contexts to women’s important role in social enterprise in each of our countries. Rich discussions were the default and new areas to deepen our understanding of gender emerged. Key questions generated through the discussions will become new areas to explore. Coady and the partners have already started to follow up on these questions, for example through a coorganized webinar on COP26 and how it will impact our work at a local level. Many thanks to our staff coordinators from partner organizations: Veronica Torres (Coady Institute), Max Prosper and Assuntha Fleurant (CLE), Anna Sangai (TGNP), Radhika Maira (SEWA), Solani Yoseph (WISE), and Farida Khatun (CCDB). They took the lead in organizing the sessions, inviting their colleagues, setting the agenda, capturing highlights from sessions and editing session descriptions. Thank you also to Catherine Irving and Cathy Sears at Coady for supporting the documentation of the sessions.
Below are the day-by-day sessions with links to their summaries. Included is also a conclusion statement, references and information on each partner.
Day 1: Coady – Feminism in Practice
Day 2: CLE – Path to Sustainable Social Business
Day 3: TGNP – Transformative Feminist Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Day 4: SEWA – How to Become a Successful Social Entrepreneur
Day 5: WISE - Establishing Social Enterprises in Non-profit Organizations Day 6: CCDB – Community Practices for Resilience Building Conclusion References
Partner Descriptions and Links
COADY – FEMINISM IN PRACTICE Hosts: Veronica Torres, Eileen Alma Feminism in practice was the topic for today’s session. Participants shared reflections on what feminism looks like in each other’s work. Everyone agreed that feminism appears in different ways in each organization. While some may have been new to feminism in practice, other organizations identify as feminist organizations and have incorporated feminism into every aspect of the organization. Eileen Alma presented on the experience of feminist practice at the Coady Institute, and shared her personal journey of the growth of her feminist consciousness and commitment. When she came to Coady, she was encouraged and supported in developing the Women’s Centre’s focus on gender equality and women’s leadership, as well as Indigenous programming. Practicing feminism in our organizations influences all aspects including governance and decision-making. There will always be challenges and we must continue to demonstrate our commitment to addressing them. A lively discussion followed regarding feminism in organizations including policy and work/life balance, and different countries and cultures. We must consider ways of working within organizations and also modelling that behavior for the community.
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The final discussion was focused on what it means for Engage to be a feminist program. Participants spoke of the diversity of experiences. There was consensus that the Engage project’s focus is on dismantling oppressive structures that are limiting to women and underrepresented groups, and providing equal opportunities to all.
DEEPENING GENDER LEARNING The “baggage” of the misrepresentations of what feminism means in different contexts continues to present a challenge to our work. Other tensions were shared of monitoring and evaluation frameworks expecting measurable results, which do not encourage the space for feminist colearning.
NEW QUESTIONS TO EXPLORE How do we push our organizations to be more feminist? How do we partner with others in a better way so that we are not doing the same thing, but supporting each other, and doing so in ways that also provide models for our communities? Beyond our activities and projects, how do we work to dismantle oppressive structures that undermine full inclusion of women and other marginalized groups? How to we integrate a longer-term feminist agenda beyond project cycles to 10 to 15 years in the future?
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Whatever I learn here, whatever I gain in knowledge and belief is that the Engage project is an initiative of small steps to bring change at the community level for women to empower economically, gain knowledge, and power in their communities—small changes to become part of society, taking charge for participation in society. – Farida
CLE – PATH TO SUSTAINABLE SOCIAL BUSINESS Hosts: Lucia Di Poi, Max-Prosper Fortuna, Esther Chrysostome The CLE team presented the Pathway Tool that was introduced to the first cohort of Fanm Angaje fellows, consisting of 25 women, during their initial training. The tool serves as a roadmap and helps identify what is needed to accomplish a defined goal, including technical capacity, resources, obstacles and challenges, support and strategy, and objectives. One participant explained it as, “if you want to know your future, look at your present.” Esther Chrysostome, a Fanm Angaje Fellow and a session host, described her experience using the tool to help plan her organization’s goal to provide access to oral health care over a 10-year period. The organization is building its capacity, and contributing to gender equality through its board members, consisting mainly of women in the health sector. Having developed her pathway in the Fanm Angaje program, she can take it back to her organization and community for input. The design of the graphic made it interesting and understandable. Learning forum participants discussed the Pathway Tool, and assessed each element by applying the tool to their own contexts. In addition to the tool’s help with building capacity, it was recognized as useful for developing a baseline to identify resources and skills and monitor progress, and for monitoring and evaluation.
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DEEPENING GENDER LEARNING Esther described awareness raising activities by going to where people meet, such as churches. Young women are often not seen as leaders in the community. It is important to support women who may have leadership potential since, “I see women getting lost in the process and systems in place…Perhaps coming from our generation, we feel we can create something on our own without working for someone else. Serve with passion, and inspire others to follow suit.” One of CLE’s leadership consultants and a graduate of Coady International Institute, Nahomie Jean Baptiste noted the importance of recognizing gender equality as a big pillar for social and economic development, and there is an important opportunity for promoting change in the broader business sector.
NEW QUESTIONS TO EXPLORE Regarding the capacity building aspect, group discussions explored the different ways knowledge can be shared, and resource people identified. This led to more questions about the role of mentors, colleagues and friends. What is the role of organizations that can provide training support, as well as mentors, and informal supports such as colleagues and friends? People who have experienced hardship have learned skills to overcome them, how is that knowledge valued and shared? There was great interest in sharing and adapting the pathway tool. How can the tool be: • Used as projects progress and evolve and adapt to unforeseen roadblocks? • Adapted for use with SACCOs? • Used for progressive and personal learning?
Gender equity is the way of doing business. That is what we want business in Haiti to know. - Nahomie
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TGNP – TRANSFORMATIVE FEMINIST MONITORING, EVALUATION AND LEARNING Hosts: Dr. Rasel Mpuya Madaha, Anna Sangai, Asteria Katunzi The purpose of the session was to learn about transformative feminist monitoring, evaluation and learning (TFMEL). The term is based on the understanding that discrimination based on gender identity is structural and systemic, and that social justice can be achieved only with changes in power relations. Feminist and gender struggles are also context specific to the many different communities and cultures in Tanzania. Using gender and power lenses, TFMEL values participation of beneficiaries at all stages of projects, from planning through to evaluation. Projects are developed and implemented in collaboration with, not for, communities. Participation in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages of projects, based on feminist principles, ensures inclusion of the voices of women and marginalized groups. TGNP introduced the 12-step Intensive Movement Building Cycle (IMBC) tool, designed to strengthen the transformative feminist movement at the grassroots level. Every step of the process is participatory to ensure communities participate and have a voice. Overall, participants of the session believed that they apply feminist principles to monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) in their own contexts, and cited examples. They also agreed that everyone is working with a feminist lens, though it is not often acknowledged.
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DEEPENING GENDER LEARNING In the discussions, emphasis was placed on increasing women’s participation in projects in ways that are empowering. Even when spaces are reserved for women’s participation, barriers persist for them to take on those roles. It is not just about the women in the room—how empowered are they to have a say and have influence? Oppressive structures undermine citizenship. TGNP’s approach is to ensure women are part of the MEL process from the outset to have a say in the indicators. All the tools are participatory as feminism has been mainstreamed through all steps. Key to feminist movement building is the empowerment of communities to act, identify potential partners, and connect with other transformative feminist practices.
Make sure what you measure is inclusive. Don’t leave others behind. Anna
NEW QUESTIONS TO EXPLORE Much adaptation has been done by TGNP for the multitudes of cultures and communities in Tanzania. How can we learn more about designing and learning from tools in the even more diverse contexts of the Engage partners. How do we address the barriers that affect design and implementation?
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SEWA – HOW TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR Host: Radhika Maira A social enterprise is a business that generates profits, creates employment opportunities, and improves equality through social and economic growth of the community. SEWA’s training centre, SEWA Manager Ni School, provides training for grassroots women workers, empowering them with the ability to manage business. Two videos were shown demonstrating the work of SEWA, highlighting the achievements of women social entrepreneurs, and validating women’s work. Discussion of social entrepreneurship followed and several examples were offered by participants. SEWA’s digital social enterprise initiative, SEWA Bazaar, focuses on streamlining production of goods, linking artisans with markets, and creating employment and livelihood opportunities for women and youth. Its vision is to reach national and international markets. Reflecting on the work of SEWA Bazaar, discussions moved on to steps for developing an organization or enterprise owned and managed by workers themselves. Their organization is their own responsibility. SEWA Bazaar has a clear vision, and is working towards it. The final discussion focused on how to make a social enterprise financially viable. Participants weighed a variety of expenses that may occur when building an organization or social enterprise. The priorities identified to assess and maintain viability include a focus on the planning and ongoing review of the budget, as well as a monitoring process to understand the current situation and emerging shifts.
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Social entrepreneurs must remain mindful of the long-term goals and focused on the vision guiding their work.
DEEPENING GENDER LEARNING The stories of women entrepreneurs highlighted how they could see the conditions of people in their communities and the opportunities for doing something different that could help make a change for the better. A challenge identified in the discussion is different policy contexts. It can be difficult to develop enterprise if the environment is not supportive. Women’s social entrepreneurship has the potential to create awareness and engage business in the gender equality movement.
NEW QUESTIONS TO EXPLORE The participants raised questions for further learning about social enterprises, including what innovation looks like in the context of social enterprises, and how to identify and support capacity building for social entrepreneurs. Partner countries have different experiences and understandings of social enterprises, what may be well known in one area could be innovative to another.
Organizing is the key. It builds the collective strength and bargaining power of the women workers. It helps pool the varied expertise of various members; helps bring ideas to the table, equip them with the necessary resources, and create alternative economic opportunities with multiple bottom lines. - Radhika
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WISE - ESTABLISHING SOCIAL ENTERPRISES IN NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS Hosts: Solani Yoseph, Aster Tefera, Tsigie Haile Building upon SEWA’s session on the promotion of social enterprises among members, WISE presenters presented on the role of social enterprises within the organization. At WISE, SACCOs are considered to be social enterprises because the profits generated are shared among the women and girls and the activities are for the good of society. The goals of WISE’s social enterprise division, Meleket Training Services, is to advance women’s empowerment and leadership, enable WISE to become a selffinancing organization through space and equipment rentals, and share learnings and trainings with others so they will replicate the good practices developed. The influence of Meleket Training Services is far-reaching. Direct targets include thousands of women and men representing hundreds of like-minded organizations, government, nongovernmental, private and community organizations. Indirect targets include thousands of members addressed by its training courses and trainees. In the past year, hundreds of women and girls have benefited from income generating activities. Session participants discussed social enterprise policy in their respective countries, and how social enterprises could contribute to the sustainability of their organizations. While one participant reported a lack of social enterprise
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policy, another spoke to a high degree of regulation and monitoring, and a third participant noted that a microfinance policy to accommodate social enterprise exists, but the culture may not support it. The differences in social enterprise in each country has an impact on the level of social enterprise that exists, and how it is approached.
DEEPENING GENDER LEARNING Understanding the context of women’s economic participation is necessary to find solutions to problems. A Tanzanian participant reflected on her country’s efforts to eradicate FGM and the need to understand the economic impact on women who rely on that income. The solution was to create social enterprises to provide an income alternative. Making the link between self-reliance and social empowerment is ongoing. Relationship building with the surrounding community is also a strength that can be called upon in times of adversity. SEWA noted its capacity to respond quickly when the pandemic hit due to existing relationships with other organizations in their communities.
NEW QUESTIONS TO EXPLORE How do we navigate the challenges of different contexts, understandings of social entrepreneurship, and frameworks that may not support non-profit organizations participating in business enterprises? Given the different contexts, it would be helpful to see the spectrum from charity or NGO to a nonprofit with income streams, to a co-operative model with a social purpose, and socially responsible business, to a profit-driven corporation with no social impact goal. What structure fits best for what projects?
The bottom line is the business is for the good of society. - Tsigie
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CCDB – COMMUNITY PRACTICES FOR RESILIENCE BUILDING Presenters: Mohammad Mahmodul Hasan, Farida Khatun To understand Bangladesh’s vulnerability to climate change, participants watched a video on the effects of cyclones, sea level rise, and salinity intrusion into coastal communities. CCDB is implementing a project in coastal areas that will help to reduce these effects and enhance the resilience of communities. The program has four components: community resilience building; greenhouse gases emission reduction; research, advocacy and capacity building; and its Climate Centre. CCDB is developing an online climate knowledge portal for people to access information. With an emphasis on local resources and knowledge, specific climate change issues have been identified at both the community and household levels, and adaptations have been developed. Agricultural adaptations include vertical, tower, hanging and floating gardening, introduction of saline tolerant and less irrigated varieties of seed, and improved crop patterns. Rainwater harvesting, pond filtering systems and solar desalinization plants benefit local communities, especially women, with the reduction of time spent collecting fresh water. Cyclone shelters serve as resilience centres and community meeting spaces for interactive learning and training, and support livelihood activities of coastal residents. Home solar systems offer offgrid electricity and improved cooking stoves reduce the need for firewood and lessen greenhouse gases. CCDB described tools used for building a community
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resilience framework, including household based risk assessment, resilience building strategy, and a sustainability scorecard assessment. Participants discussed examples of climate events in their own countries and impacts on livelihoods. Climate events ranged from drought, low crop yields, wildfires, heat waves, and cyclones. The groups shared successful adaptation actions practiced for community resilience, including tree planting to reverse deforestation, harvesting rainwater, carbon reduction, and social enterprises. Youth should be encouraged to learn about climate change and adaptation at an early age. They can assist older generations to understand new concepts and help mitigate climate change for the future.
DEEPENING GENDER LEARNING Women’s roles are important in climate change responses. They are often central to local food systems yet are often an untapped resource. Women must be included in decision making and leadership. Youth also have a key role to play, but we need to be mindful to define what we mean by youth, and specify young women in particular. One participant noted an agroforestry project in Kenya that used ABCD tools and was able to uncover the hidden talents of the women involved.
NEW QUESTIONS TO EXPLORE Translating complex climate change issues and policy responses is challenging. Can we apply the model of the 2020 Local Women’s Voices for Peace E-Conference to understand the outcomes of events like COP26?
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COP26, we may understand what that is, but many don’t. When you root it in ABCD at a local level, you see daily ramifications of degradation. - Lucia
CONCLUSION This learning forum was a great opportunity to intentionally develop circles of learning among colleagues within organizations and among ENGAGE partners. While it had to take place virtually, we felt connected and were able to explore the relevance of concepts and policies to local and day to day realities as well as the role of adaptation for diverse contexts. By taking a women-centered and feminist approach to the ENGAGE project and to asset-based community development, we are trying to bridge a gap between a community’s interests and resources, mobilizing, and transformation. Through the conversations, our partners noted the importance of building community, shared and individual leadership, mutual recognition, empowerment, and transformation. This happens as much in our local work as it does in our transnational partners of six organizations and six countries. This unique melding of asset-based and feminist approaches is already helping us learn from one another’s successes and challenges, replicate good practices, and develop innovative approaches while influencing the policy environment for women’s leadership and active citizenship. We see there is much sharing to take place in the future and the forum signals research areas as well as the need to ground feminist practice in the reality of partners and demystify it. We look forward to the next forum in 2022!
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REFERENCES SEWAORG. (2019, November 27). Mubarakben, “Our Rudi is our Asset” (SEWA) [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/lRZ92VI5Wa4 Singh Bhogal, T., & Batliwala, S. (2021). Feminist mentoring for feminist futures: Part 1: the theory. CREA. https://creaworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/FMFF-Part-1.pdf Torikul, H. (2017, November 29). Being resilient: Addressing the impact of climate change in Bangladesh [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/lQpOnXDfE44 Withers, P. (2021, November 8). A Nova Scotia fish hatchery is confronted by death, disease and climate change. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/nova-scotia-fish-hatchery-salmon-climatechange-1.6238668
ORGANIZATIONS AND KNOWLEDGE CENTERS Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) CCDB Climate Knowledge Portal provides a searchable database for climate-related resources, finance, maps and data, solutions and best practice. International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
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PARTNER DESCRIPTIONS AND LINKS CCDB: Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh https://ccdbbd.org/ Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB) works at the community level to support local women’s organizations to address issues of climate change through the development of community-based climate change adaptation. CCDB provides training and builds the capacity of these organizations, supports them to engage in advocacy; and encourages them to interact with local government institutions and develop opportunities for alternative livelihoods in the face of climate change.
CLE: Centre Haïtien du Leadership et de L’Excellence https://clehaiti.org/ Centre Haïtien du Leadership et de L’Excellence (CLE) uses research, educational programs and networking campaigns to enhance the capacities of Haitian leaders. Fanm Angaje is CLE’s new 15-month fellowship program in women’s leadership. The program focuses on leadership development, asset-based community development (ABCD), social entrepreneurship, and women’s rights and women’s movements in Haiti.
Coady: Coady Institute https://coady.stfx.ca/ Coady Institute is dedicated to community-based development and leadership education. It is committed to reducing poverty and transforming societies by strengthening local economies, building resilient communities, and promoting social accountability and good governance. The Institute provides capacity building support to the partners, as well as implementing a learning agenda on issues related to women’s community-based leadership, action research, documentation, and regional and global learning forums.
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SEWA: Self Employed Women’s Association https://www.sewa.org/ Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a member-based organization of self-employed women workers in the informal sector in India. It assists women workers to achieve economic sustainability and self-reliance. Founded in 2005, SEWA Manager Ni School (SMS) provides leadership and management education to women from the informal economy.
TGNP: Tanzania Gender Networking Programme https://tgnp.or.tz/ Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) strives for gender equality, equity and social justice for all. The organization contributes to the development of a transformative feminist social movement in Tanzania. TGNP’s purpose is to improve policy and institutional frameworks and processes to achieve social and gender transformation and women empowerment.
WISE: Organization for Women in Self Employment https://www.wiseethiopia.org/ Organization for Women in Self Employment (WISE) focuses on economic and social empowerment of women and girls, helping them to achieve self-reliance and improve their quality of life. WISE organizes women and girls in savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), and provides training and financial services to them. WISE’s social enterprise division, the Meleket Training Center, was established in 2012 after the civil society proclamation on social enterprises.
We wish to acknowledge Cynthia Khoury for her vibrant visual reflections of the sessions.
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