Rapid Assessment of Rohingya Crisis

A rapid assessment was carried out by The Hunger Project in October 2017 primarily to identify the violent extremist issues relating to the recent Rohingya influx and the community hosting them. It is clear that the welcoming attitude of the host community toward the Rohingyas is disappearing fast and the prospect of conflict between the two groups is on the rise, partly due to the host community’s feeling increasing threats from the Rohingyas, who greatly outnumber them in some areas. There are also economic pressures on the host community from the recent influx of Rohingyas. The minority and ethnic members of the host community are also experiencing increased threats from the influx of Rohingyas.

Click here to read the full report.

If, When and Whom to Marry: Young Women Choosing Their Best Future of Health

28796175381_0b954aa4ae_zIt is perhaps easy to envision what should constitute quality health care for all people. What about choice in what quality health care means per person, according to what one wants for their lives?

When a person reaches the age of adolescence, they become more aware of how their surroundings and choices affect their future. When that adolescent is entrenched in a patriarchal society, the set expectations for their future more so affects their current life and health. Examples include teen pregnancy as a result of early and child marriage, lack of access to age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health education, and young women dropping out of school.

The Hunger Project is working in Africa and South Asia to shift these patriarchal mindsets and empower youth – both young women and men – to make decisions about their health and future through the Her Choice Program.

Through a community-based mentoring approach, including peer mentors, the program mobilizes relevant community actors to build local ownership over ending child-marriage. Activities aim to foster empowerment among girls and young women to take control of decision-making, and sensitize the community to value such.

Girls and communities become increasingly aware of the negative [health] consequences of early, child and forced marriage, which allows girls and young women to better participate in society and apply newly gained knowledge from sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) into their life choices. “If, when and whom” to marry is the primary choice in focus.

Early, child and forced marriage pervades the cycle of poverty, especially for young women: dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, limited or no household decision making capacity, poor health of young mothers and newborns, lack of decisions around one’s sexual and reproductive preferences, and stagnated economic empowerment and income generation among women. The program aims to improve access to formal education for girls by supporting girl-friendly schools and access to youth-friendly SRHR services.

035Relevant community actors are key in helping shift the patriarchal social norms to ensure an enabling environment wherein girls can make their own life choices. Women’s “self-help” groups carry out trainings and education about financial services to improve economic security of girls and their families. This helps to decrease incentive for marrying off daughters and increase women’s independent economic empowerment. Relevant community actors also include traditional leaders and supportive groups of men of all ages to help transform social and traditional norms toward inclusion of women and girls in decision-making. Traditional leaders are especially crucial in helping enforce national policies around child marriage, in not approving or overseeing child marriages in their respective communities.

By imbedding youth-friendly SRHR leadership and program activities into communities, Her Choice is influencing sustainable results. They can continue building on local assets and train additional young leaders to continue fostering women’s choice in marriage.

Do you want to marry? If so, when would you want to marry? And to what kind of person would you like to be married? Do you want to finish school before you consider marriage? Do you want to finish school and pursue work more than you want to be married? The choices – at least in some way – affect health and economic security.

There are many ways we can degrade, stabilize or improve our own health. Everyday habits like washing your hands, drinking clean water, eating healthily, to more long-term choices like getting vaccinated. Young women have a right to choose their future of health, and that right includes choosing “if, when and whom” they should marry.

 

 

PNPM Progress: A Path Towards Sustainability in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Program Nasional Pemberdayaan Mandiri (PNPM), or National Program for Community Empowerment, is a government-led, multi-donor trust-funded pilot program, which is managed by the World Bank Group (WBG) and delivered through the PNPM Support Facility (PSF). Also funded by: AusAid, CIDA, DANIDA, USAID, EU, UKAID, and the Dutch Government 

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Photo Credit: World Bank, PNPM (Peduli) Indonesia: Caring for the Invisible

 As the Government of Indonesia’s flagship community-driven development (CDD) program, PNPM strives to improve the socio-economic welfare of the poor and most marginalized groups by expanding opportunities through community consultation at all phases of the program, empowerment, and capacity building of civil society organizations (CSO). The key elements of PNPM-CDD programs include: community development, institution building, community block grants, strengthening local governance and partnerships, and technical assistance for program development

In working with numerous Indonesian and local CSOs and a handful of implementing partners, PNPM programs are currently active in roughly 6,000 sub-districts, 73,000 villages, and 33 provinces. Nearly Rp1.4 billion, which roughly equates to USD 21 million, is allocated to each village per year solely for development purposes. In the first year, PNPM programs helped nearly 12,000 marginalized individuals to build confidence, gain new livelihood skills and training, access information and public services, and to create new opportunities to participate in community life.

However, addressing the root drivers of social inclusion are not just about improving economic conditions, but about fully integrating individuals into every nook and cranny of civic life—increasing participation and breaking down social barriers by changing mindsets and reversing engrained stigmas. The Government of Indonesia realizes the marginalized are important and unappreciated assets (financial, labor, social), and often benefit less from public programs and poverty reduction schemes.

In this manner, local and national CSOs have a comparative advantage and are well positioned to empower marginalized groups to become more self-reliant and able to live dignified lives. CSOs work with a diverse range of marginalized groups in rural and urban Indonesia: female micro-entrepreneurs, street children, LGBTQ, violence against women and girls (VAWG), and people living with HIV/AIDS among others. Though CSOs have a limited financial capacity to provide services and activities such as mentoring and training, the PNPM has established grant making to mitigate the costs.

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Photo Credit: Source Unknown, PNPM Program Indonesia

PNPM programs have provided women, specifically, with business training and equipment, skills training, and loan arrangements to start businesses. As a result, women’s groups are now running laundries, phone card counters, food production, and coffee shops, for example. However, CDD programs in Indonesia could benefit from a thorough gender analysis needs assessment to identify which constraints women face particularly in a rural environment. Programs also need to collect and analyze disaggregated data between men and women, between rural and urban villages, and among communities, households, and individuals, to best target those in need and to measure participation. Affirmative action and inclusion of marginalized groups, such as women, must be addressed through quotas.

In 2015, the Government of Indonesia introduced the new Village Law, which is the new master framework for village development and community empowerment and embodies many of the aforementioned principles of the PNPM-CDD program. Although adopted and enacted to ensure sustainability of the PNPM programs, this framework also brings attention to the many challenges and implications it faces for future implementation.

Firstly, the programs must find a better, comprehensive way to measure accountability. Under the new law, the some 73,000 villages are seeing a large influx of resources from the government and outside funding agencies such as AusAid, CIDA, DANIDA, USAID, EU, UKAID, and the Dutch Government. The district governments have low capacity to monitor the cash flows and implementation of village governments. Who will provide the accountability and oversight and perform the audits? Or, who will be responsible for strengthening the oversight? The programs need a strong monitoring, evaluation, and learning (ME&L) framework—built-in accountability targets and performance-based indicators—to ensure precise development results and to prevent elite capture of village transfers.

A community-led development (CLD) approach, however, introduces such social accountability measures, supporting regularized processes such as public forums, at which local governments can demonstrate transparency and accountability and citizens can review and challenge the progress of targets and goals. CLD also supports communities to generate and access timely, locally relevant data that informs priority setting and strengthens progress tracking.

Secondly, it is important to remember that an increase in resources does not necessarily equip the villagers with the skills and expertise needed to obtain jobs and administer good service delivery. CDD projects often do not benefit everyone and takes years to trickle down to the most marginalized groups. How do we streamline this process to ensure that the most vulnerable are receiving the resources?

Lastly, although the law provides a strong legal framework for mainstreaming PNPM-CDD principles in village socio-economic activities, it does not necessarily guarantee sound implementation in practice. The PNPM-CDD programs must be sustainable and fully integrated into the local system of government. The law does not specifically address what it can impact in the short term versus what it can affect in the long term, which is necessary to ensure sustainability and resiliency. PNPM-CDD programs could learn from the CLD’s approach to sustainability and resiliency.

The CLD approach addresses sustainability and resiliency by addressing challenging factors such as climate change and population growth and how this in turn puts strong pressures on rural areas. The CLD approach calls for a process that includes actions to ensure that a program and community are resilient to climatic, political, and economic shocks. Local communities must have a regularized process of disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness.

The PNPM-CDD programs in Indonesia are promising and making considerable progress. However, the programs can build upon this progress by introducing several key distinguishing principles introduced by the CLD approach, namely: a keen focus on facilitators as mobilizers and “agents of change” rather than “beneficiaries,” a gender-mainstreamed approach, built-in social accountability measures, timely and disaggregated data, strengthening legal existence through ME&L, and implementing sustainability and resiliency safeguards.

An International Look at Women’s Rights

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Until recently, the human rights of half the world’s population – women – were not universally protected, nor accepted in most parts of the world. In 2014, the United Nations (UN) released a publication, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” to further the international understanding of women’s human rights. The framework outlines key areas of women’s rights that must be addressed by all states around the world.

In 1948, the UN established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all human rights applied to both men and women, using inclusive wording that eliminated the question of human rights applying only to men. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 and other human rights treaties followed suit to be more inclusive of women in both its wording and the rights it guarantees (i.e. marriage rights, maternity and child protection, etc.). An official declaration of women’s rights was officially adopted in 1967 by the UN titled the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, proclaiming discrimination against women as a barrier to “the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity”.

Out of the fact that women’s rights are indeed human rights, women’s rights have become more widely understood as inalienable and of utmost priority for international development.

There are several key priorities toward the advancement and inclusion of women globally:

  • Identifying and citing private party violators of women’s rights, (i.e. individuals, small organizations, businesses, etc.)
  • Standardizing women’s rights – regardless of culture and traditional customs and practices
  • Ending discrimination that neglects women and prohibits their decision making influence, as well as their social and economic empowerment

Advocacy has a huge role to play in the achievement of gender equality. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which is to assure we “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, specifically targets several ways in which we can end gender inequality. We must end discrimination against all women, eradicate violence against women, ensure the opportunity for women to be leaders and decision-makers, protect all women’s right to reproductive and sexual health, guarantee women’s economic rights, and certify that the legal systems in place can protect these rights. Below are eight human rights that must immediately be achieved in each country to ensure the achievement of gender equality internationally.

  1. Education – Barriers to universal education must be eliminated. This includes child marriage, teen pregnancy, child labor, discriminatory policies, poor access to schools, and cultural tendencies.
  2. Political Roles – Women should not only have the right to vote, but also be constitutionally allowed to run for government office. (See SDG 5.5)
  3. Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) – A women should be able to receive sexual and reproductive health care wherever she lives, including family planning and informative services. This care must also be provided by trained and safe providers. (See SDGs 3.7, 3.8, & 5.6)
  4. Adequate Standards of Living – Women must have access to basic resources such as food, clothing, and housing. These resources ultimately affect a woman’s economic prosperity, lifelong health, and her social capital. A food security system and economic opportunities must be in place to achieve adequate standards of living.
  5. Prevent and End Violence Against Women – Often occurring from entrenched patriarchy, violence against women further burdens vulnerable and impoverished populations. Victims of domestic abuse, female genital mutilations (FGM), and rape suffer severe psychological and health repercussions that can hinder development advancements. States must prioritize preventing violence against women and girls. (See SDG 5.2)
  6. Immigration and Displacement Protection – States involved in the origin, travel, and destination of migrant and displaced women should all be held accountable for protecting women against harm. Migrant and displaced women are at a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse, discrimination, depression, forced prostitution, and unacceptable working conditions due to their citizenship status.
  7. Protection in Conflict and Crises – Conflict can normalize and amplify the mistreatment of women, who are “often used as a tactic of war”. Woman are more vulnerable to rape, sexual violence, trafficking, and other human rights violations in these situations. Legal action and victim protection must be available and effective to protect women in these situations.
  8. Access to Legal Assistance and Justice – To achieve gender equality, we must have effective and accessible law and justice procedures to protect women at the local, national, and international level. Justice systems must be non-discriminatory, accessible to all women, and states must make it a priority to educate both women and law officials on the rights women are entitled to. (See SDG 5.c)

Women are capable of lifting their families, communities, and countries out of poverty. They have the ability to change the world if their human rights are recognized as not only important, but inalienable. We must ensure that humans rights are inclusive of women globally and that they enable women reach their full potential as agents of change.

To learn more about the SDGs, click here.

Image courtesy of UN News Centre.

Common Violence Hinders the Common Man and Woman

51xb42qd1fl-_sx334_bo1204203200_In the 2014 book The Locust Effect, Gary Haugen makes the case that “common violence” impedes progress in international development. Haugen likens the cloud of locusts that swept over the middle of the United States in 1873, a force that devoured and decimated everything in its path, to the plague of violence that infects the world’s poor and inhibits progress towards a better life.

Haugen lists the main types of common violence that inhibit progress as sexual violence, which includes but is not limited to the trafficking of women and girls and sex slavery, forced labor, abusive police practices, torture, pre-trial detention, and violent land seizures. There is a range of what these types of violence looks like in different cultures and countries, but Haugen classifies common violence as any type of lawlessness that can occur almost anywhere to anyone where law enforcement and criminal justice systems are broken and do not benefit the people. He ties in the title again when describing the relationship between crime and the poor: “unlike the locusts of the Great Plains, who were equal-opportunity destroyers, the locusts of violence in the developing world actually seek out the poor.”

Haugen claims that crime and violence affect the poor more because they are targeted by those who have more power and money. Being born poor is being born with a target on your back; not just for those who will exploit you, but for police themselves. Haugen believes that a lack of training, corruption, and outdated, colonialist police programs that have never learned to serve the common people have resulted in completely ineffective police and criminal justice systems that do not work for the poor.

Violence and crime vary from country to country, from community to community, but almost all law enforcement, criminal justice, and court systems in the developing world could use some updates. Haugen acknowledges that change will not come easily, but claims it can be done. He sees some common themes in successes:

  • Each movement of criminal justice reform required local ownership and leadership of a very intentional effort to transform the justice system
  • Each public justice system had its own particular problems, symptoms of dysfunction, and obstacles to reform that required highly contextualized solutions
  • Committed community leaders and reform-minded elites played a critical role
  • Effective criminal justice systems improved the working conditions of the people working in the system
  • The priority goal of effective transformation efforts was a criminal justice system that prevented violence and crime and built trust with the public

Haugen gives some examples of successful projects and programs that have reformed law enforcement, criminal justice, and court systems.

  • In Brazil a group of organizations have united to combat forced labor slavery. Brazil’s Ministry of Labour and Employment (MTE) has Special Mobile Inspection Groups (GEFMs) that conduct surprise inspections and investigations on landowners and employers suspected of using slave labor. Between 1995 and 2010 these mobile units have rescued 38,301 laborers and the mobile units are being replicated across Brazil. These efforts have raised the profile of forced labor and awareness is higher than ever.
  • In Sierra Leone a small group called Timap for Justice are dedicated to legal empowerment of the poor. They believe that a shortage of qualified lawyers and the lack of available funds to pay for them is limiting the poor’s access to legal services. Timap uses highly-trained paralegals as their solution to address common crimes. These paralegals are trained to provide legal services to the poor without the cost of a lawyer. Paralegals are trained in mediation techniques and to be flexible with multiple approaches to law, whether from a traditional legal standpoint or a religious one. 40% of Sierra Leone has access to a community paralegal now, thanks to this scalable program which is in the process of expanding its reach.
  • A group in Peru, Paz y Esperanza, has mobilized community efforts to bring public accountability to the criminal justice system. By way of awareness and public action campaigns, they have fully secured more than 152 convictions of sexual predators since 2003. Paz y Esperanza brought the epidemic of sexual violence into the public conversation and even led a successful campaign to remove four corrupt judges from the local courts who refused to prosecute sexual violence with integrity.

There are many more success stories and useful lessons to learn in The Locust Effect. Haugen wants us to talk about violence in the broader context of development because he believes that success will only be long-lasting if the threat of fear of violence is diminished. He makes a compelling case.

 

Images courtesy of un.org and amazon.com

Building the Capacity of Youth as Leaders of Today -The Kampala Principles for Youth Led Development

Jon-Andreas Solberg and Douglas Ragan co-authored a very enlightening  post on UN-Habitat Youth covering five principles of youth-led development that are being utilized by youth programs globally and has begun to influence policy at the local, national and global level. These principles (listed below) originated from an initiative started in 2007 when representatives from  UN-Habitat´s One Stop Youth Resource Centres gathered together in Kampala, Uganda to discuss ways to promote and sustain the capacity for youth to operate as leaders today. The post leads to the key point that youthshould be recognized as key development partners and asset and rights-holders, just as anyone else, young and old, women and men.” 

Kampala Principles for Youth-led Development:

  1.        Youth define their own development goals and objectives;
  2.        Youth have a safe and generative physical space;
  3.        Adult and peer-to-peer mentorship;
  4.        Youth act as role models for other youth;
  5.        Youth are integrated into local and national development programs and     policies.

The full article, including a detailed look at each principle, can be found here.

Women and the Role of Husbandry for Stronger Community-led Development

THP-Burkina Faso’s Director,  Evariste Lebende Yaogho, with program participant.

We live in a world where women still continue to fight for equal rights. They are not given the option to make decisions and their needs are only secondary to men. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries up to almost 50 percent in Eastern and Southeastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Women produce more than half of all the food that is grown but ironically, a greater number of the world’s hungry are women.

In many rural communities, women are not granted the freedom to generate their own income or even leave the confines of their home. A huge number of them are illiterate because they are denied to receive an education. They are mandated to spend most of their days care-giving and perform other household responsibilities. They have to face different challenges on the road in order to achieve literacy. When they grow up, their daughters go through the same oppression: a cycle of poverty. It can be very difficult to break that cycle given that a girl’s future is determined by the time she takes her first breath.

The Hunger Project believes that development requires gender equality. This begins with empowering women. When women join the working sector there is an increase in economic productivity. One of the Hunger Project’s most recent initiatives, “Projet d’appui à la production animale dans les Communes de Arbollé et de Kirsi (PAPA/AK),” is a twelve month project funded by FAO that attempts to break the cycle of poverty through livestock husbandry. Fifty have chosen 3 rams during a community fair, each benefiting from the inclusion of monthly health monitored for each animal.

Educating whole communities, including men, about the benefits of empowering women can affect a critical social mindset shift to improve household income and bring families out of poverty. This can also lead to different possibilities and opportunities for women to build greater agency and roles within her community.  Women empowerment does not equal to male inferiority. Women empowerment seeks the closure of gender-gaps that consequently results to development and betterment of the lives of women, men, families and communities.

Heifer International, co-founder of the Movement for Community-led Development with The Hunger Project, also aims to empower citizens and communities at the grassroots level to become agents of change for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. They strengthen local economies by distributing livestock and leading husbandry trainings to help families become self reliant. Heifer also provides veterinary services to project participants to maximize benefits and reduce livestock mortality rates.

According to the U.N. Development Programme, “when women have equal access to education, and go to participate fully in business and economic decision-making, they are a key driving force against poverty.” A community cannot meet full development unless women receive the same treatment and opportunities as men. Women posses the essential skills for development, they just need the transition to reach that goal.

The Hunger Project’s recent animal donation project with FAO places particular priority on women, as it empowers them to become financial providers for their family. It generates opportunities for women to cut the cycle of poverty and hunger, and an opportunity for them to participate to fostering equality and breaking the norms of inferiority. They become the key agents of their own development and the innovator their community needs.

Sustainable Development by 2030 Requires Community-led Development

“For us, then, to reach our twin goals, three things have to happen—inclusive economic growth, investment in human beings, and insurance against the risk that people could fall back into poverty. Grow, invest, and insure: that’s our shorthand for it…We reject “trickle-down” notions that assume that any undifferentiated growth permeates and fortifies the soil and everything starts to bloom, even for the poor.  We need to find an economic growth model that lifts up the poorest citizens rather than enriching only those at the top.”

-Jim Young Kim, President, World Bank Group address at the 2015 WB/IMF Annual Meetings

At the United Nations on September 30, over a dozen INGOs and other likeminded development stakeholders officially launched the Movement for Community-led Development during UNGA70. The motivation for this Movement stems from the need to push for an exponential increase in bottom-up development initiatives that mobilize and empower citizens as the key agents of change for their own development.

Co-hosted by the Government of the Philippines, featuring local representatives from the Kalahi-CIDSS program, the Movement launch yielded provocative discussion around the inefficiencies of prioritizing top-down development approaches and resource provisions [in the absence of humanitarian needs]. On the heels of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, there are already sobering concerns around the realistic capacity and resources to achieve all of the goals and targets by 2030. Experts from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Restless Development, Institute for State Effectiveness and Heifer International explained how the sweat equity from community-led development, notably youth and women, would undoubtedly provide crucial capacity to achieve the goals at all levels. 

The discussion included two prominent elements: 1) strengthening good, local governance for effective partnerships with communities, and; 2) integrated strategies to build the whole of communities and individuals.

Using the example of rebuilding infrastructure and effective service delivery in his community after Typhoon Haiyan, Mayor Pelagio R. Pecson Jr, of Tanauan, Leyte in the Philippines, one of Kalahi-CIDSS’ operational areas, explained how strides in community-led development built significant resilience to trauma and devastation in the wake of disaster. The accountability and leadership skills of citizens and their responsive local government meant shorter crisis and less costly crisis management to rebuild.

Heifer International’s Partnerships and Business Development Manager, Kamil Madanat, spoke specifically about the crucial need for integrated programming at the community level in order to break the cycle of poverty. Strategic interlinkages between sectors such as health, education, sanitation, improved agricultural techniques and food storage results in increased income due to healthier living standards and overall improvement in livelihoods. This includes decreasing time poverty, and expanding local economies through better market access and new value chain entry points. Kamil explained that the key implementers of these interventions were few others than trained community leaders and grassroots volunteers. He stated that “empowered communities will make better decisions,” defending that investment in human capital is greater than resource or monetary investments. John Coonrod, Executive Vice President of The Hunger Project added to this, saying that the “2030 agenda demands that people work together.”

While continuing the unveiling of the Movement for Community-led Development, Clare Lockhart, Founder and President of the Institute for State Effectiveness gave examples of how [at least] millions of crucial donor dollars are wasted as they “trickle down” from high-level and managerial positions through resources spent on program design without input or leadership from community members. Implementation and monitoring is then not only carried out in shorter time frames than from which significant impact can occur, but it often fails to fulfill intended goals due to poor applicability to the community and a lack of community ownership to ensure sustainability. One such example was the distribution of logs to repair and strengthen clay homes in rural Africa. The logs did not fit the existing home structures and time did not allow for complete reconstruction of the homes. The time and money intended to repair homes became fuel for local stoves; the people were still essentially homeless and the project did not yield a sustainable outcome.

Civil society and its most important partners – the local citizens for whom our work is intended – are increasingly demanding community-led prioritization from donors, bi-laterals and government funding agencies. This includes multi-sectoral funding streams, longer funding windows and flexible funding to ensure community ownership and leadership. This global call for action begins with the Movement for Community-led Development.

If your foundation, organization or company wants to join the Movement, please visit the site and submit your inquiry: www.communitydev.net

Financing Community-led Development: Putting People First

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.08.18 PMThe United Nations’ much anticipated Third Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) has come and gone. Over four days, more than 6,000 high-level development actors gathered to discuss the needs and means to finance the implementation of the Post 2015 Development Agenda. What was declared as the final draft of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) left much to be desired, especially according to CSOs.

In the wake of the Zero Outcome Document of the Post 2015 Development Agenda, The Hunger Project and CONERN Worldwide‘s FfD3 side event, Financing Community-led Development: Putting People First, proves to be timely and crucially relevant. The Preamble of the Zero Outcome Document outlines five areas for intended outcomes by 2030: people, planet, poverty, prosperity and partnerships. The content states the need for integrated programming, cross-sectoral partnerships, leaving no one behind, and creating self-reliance for sustainable development. These points were key points made during the aforementioned FfD3 side event.

Chaired by Tom Arnold, coordinator ad interim of the SUN Movement, challenged attendees to consider grassroots, bottom-up development initiatives that place women at the center and prioritize partnerships with local governments. Orla O’Neill, Assistant Country Director of CONCERN Worldwide Ethiopia, spoke specifically about resilience-building and why it must be achieved at the community level. Orla noted the truest fact in development: poverty is complex and solutions must be designed accordingly at the local level. Much like her co-panelists’ affiliations, Orla explained that CONCERN integrates sectors of development and engages community members as partners and key stakeholders, rather than beneficiaries. CONCERN’s specific purpose around their efforts is “the ability of a community, to anticipate, respond to, cope with and recover from the effects of shocks and stresses that drive or exacerbate malnutrition in a timely and effective manner, without compromising their long-term prospects of moving out of poverty and hunger.” This is backed by the inalienable priority of communities being at the center of decision-making because of community members’ skills, experiences, opinions and closest understanding of their culture and needs.

Neguest Mekonnen, Country Director of The Hunger Project-Ethiopia provided the programmatic example of The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy. Focusing closely on the role of women and voluntary leadership roles in local community clusters, Neguest discussed the need to mobilize several communities together to leverage available resources and capacities in order for people to invest in and be agents of their own development. A cluster of communities yields strength in numbers in establishing strong social accountability mechanisms to hold local governments to account and successfully partner with them to fulfill basic human rights services in the long-term. In the Epicenter Strategy, this includes training of trainers in local communities to fulfill “animator” roles as HIV educators, literacy and numeracy teachers, agricultural farming technique teachers, advocates for healthy pregnancies and micro-finance committee leaders. Without these local leaders and community knowledge, the lynchpin in mobilizing and transforming mind sets from hopelessness to empowerment would be impossible.

What is the role of youth at the local level? Burkina Faso’s UN Youth Envoy for the Post 2015 Development Agenda joined the panel as a youth representative for Restless Development. Cheick, a young male and development leader of several NGOs, spoke about the critical role of leveraging the large youth population for leadership roles at the grassroots level to mobilize and positively impression youth, especially at the adolescent age. Telling examples of failed development attempts to construct desirable and central water pumping stations in a village, Cheick explained that such a shortcoming was due entirely to a lack of community decision making and youth leadership. Without awareness of cultural traditions and emerging changes as recognized by youth, development initiatives risk failure – and wasting money – when solely implementing based on “expertise” or data. Cheick stated that the reality is that “youth want to be agents of change, not passive recipients of action.”

Speaking on behalf of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the United States Government, Beth Tritter, Vice President of Policy and Evaluation spoke from the lens of a foundation that stemmed from the UN’s first Conference on Financing for Development in Doha. Beth explained that MCC aims to yield results that outlive investments through prioritizing country ownership and country implementation to adapt initiatives most appropriately to local conditions and needs. Two mutually benefitting strengths of MCC: strengthening good governance and investing directly in citizens. Beth also noted that MCC’s scope covers all sectors and seeks to work with a multitude of stakeholders to achieve a shared vision of sustainable development. From the CSO perspective, it is encouraging that a community-oriented foundation that results from the first FfD still operates today, proving to other donors that their approach is worth adopting.

Financing community-led development is not only appropriate, but economically and sustainably promising. To achieve this, panelists called for multi-sectoral funding streams for longer term programs – estimating between five and eight years – as well as flexibility to accommodate changes to maintain relevance. There was also a strong preference for funding that benefits collaboratives or alliances. Such groups bring a multitude of expertise across sectors and are accountable to one another to fulfill goals. Most importantly, financing community-led development must prioritize community decision-making, community ownership, and country ownership in the longer term. Development initiatives must mitigate dependency, providing hand ups, solutions, training and alleviating time. This will not be accomplished to the utmost through “trickle-down” funding, higher level decision making and exclusive resource provisions. Invest in empowerment, locals, women, youth and integrated, long-term programming is the means if the goal is truly sustainable development that leaves no one behind.

Ruma: an insuperable woman against early marriage and poverty

Written by Nazrul Islam, Senior Program Coordinator for Monitoring & Evaluation, The Hunger Project – Bangladesh

Story - Ruma is describing her success to M&E OfficerRuma is the first born of a lower income peasant family, still living with her parents in Udampur Barni in Hemanagar in Gopalpur under Tangaail. After passing primary school, she qualified for admission into high school. Her days passed as they should: playing and studying. This soon took a turn when she was in class eight.

Convinced by neighbors and close relatives, her parents decided to marry her off at her early age. Hearing the news, she became upset and worried about her future; she was not ready to marry. She talked with her parents to give her decision that she would not marry. Surprisingly, it was her mother that was difficult to convince. She persisted and her parents finally decided not to marry her off. She was able to escape from the curse of early marriage.

She passed SSC in 2010 and her parents tried again to marry her off, but failed. She started to earn her own school tuition, relieving her family of extra financial burdens. She then got admitted into college. Sadly, however, she failed to protest her younger sister’s early marriage. Her parents married her off when she was only a student in class seven. New burden arose in her home: why did her younger sister marry before her? It was at this time that her uncle learned about The Hunger Project’s Animator Training from Union Coordinator Biplob.  She joined her uncle in attending the four days of training in 2013.

After training, Ruma’s brain was busy with how she can do something special for herself as well as for her family. She decided to rear poultry. She bought three hens from the local market. Within a few days she added 30 chickens and eight ducks. She began to earn Tk. 3000-4000 ($39 – 51) per month from poultry farming.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.58.35 AMShe also attended a three-day Residential Women Leaders Foundation course in 2014. She learned know about gender discrimination, violation and women’s empowerment. Mainly this training enabled her to realize herself as human, not just woman. With the other women in the course, she took an oath declaring herself as a woman leader.

Success - Ruma is providing feeding to her poultryAs a woman leader, she began to take initiatives. She held courtyard meetings for pregnant women about maternity and child nutrition and lead campaigns on sanitation, woman violence and gender discrimination, birth registration, and dowry. She also conducted five courtyard meetings on child marriage, two on school dropouts, five on violence against women (VAW), two campaigns on school enrollment and three discussions on sanitation. Presently, she monthly earns Tk. 3000 ($39) from meeting tuition, TK. 1500 ($19) from homestead gardening and Tk. 1000 ($13) from poultry rearing.

Most importantly, people’s acceptance of and respect for Ruma increased as a result of her leadership in these activities and economic independence, because she involves herself with what is good for the society. She was awarded “Joyeeta” on 9 December 2014 in recognition of her work.

Now, Ruma is a studying for a degree and is married to a man of a financially sound family. She dreams to be a teacher and dreams of a good and prosperous society. She believes that her perseverance through any ill-thinking and gender discrimination in society will lead to its elimination. Toward this end, she plans to recruit another 20 women leaders within the next two years. It is through dreams and actions like Ruma’s that a hunger-free, poverty-free and self-reliant Bangladesh will be built.