Tag Archives: development

Consortium re: volunteers & SDGs, coordinated by Brookings Institution

BBCBANNER_optOn June 14, 2016, people from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations, corporations, universities, the Peace Corps, and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) came together at the Brookings Institution to answer the question on how to achieve impacts on the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through international service. This was also the 10th anniversary gathering of the Building Bridges Coalition, a multi-stakeholder consortium of development volunteers, coordinated by Brookings. The event included the announcement of a new Service Year Alliance partnership with the coalition to step up international volunteers and village-based volunteering capacity around the world.

(note: in this case, the word development has to with humanitarian aid that is focused on building the capacities of humans for improved health, improved education, improved income generation, improved life choices, etc., on community development, institutional development, environmental development, country development, etc.)

According to a summary article about the events by David L. Caprara, “Volunteerism remains a powerful tool for good around the world. Young people, in particular, are motivated by the prospect of creating real and lasting change, as well as gaining valuable learning experiences that come with volunteering.”

Brookings Senior Fellow Homi Kharas, who served as the lead author supporting the high-level panel advising the U.N. secretary-general on the post-2015 development agenda, noted the imperative of engaging community volunteers to scale up effective initiatives, build political awareness, and generate “partnerships with citizens at every level” to achieve the 2030 goals.

Kharas’ call was echoed in reports on effective grassroots initiatives, including Omnimed’s mobilization of 1,200 village health workers in Uganda’s Mukono district, a dramatic reduction of malaria through Peace Corps efforts with Senegal village volunteers, and Seed Global Health’s partnership to scale up medical doctors and nurses to address critical health professional shortages in the developing world.

Civic Enterprises President John Bridgeland and Brookings Senior Fellow E.J. Dionne, Jr. led a panel with Seed Global Health’s Vanessa Kerry and Atlas Corps’ Scott Beale on policy ideas for the next administration, including offering Global Service Fellowships in United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programs to grow health service corps, student service year loan forgiveness, and technical support through State Department volunteer exchanges. There were also representatives from Global Citizen Year, America Solidaria, and International Young Leaders Academy.

The multi-stakeholder volunteering model was showcased by Richard Dictus, executive coordinator of UNV; Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet; USAID Counselor Susan Reischle; and Diane Melley, IBM vice president for Global Citizenship. Melley highlighted IBM’s 280,000 skills-based employee volunteers who are building community capacity in 130 countries along with Impact 2030—a consortium of 60 companies collaborating with the U.N.—that is “integrating service into overall citizenship activities” while furthering the SDGs.

The key role of colleges and universities in the coalition’s action plan—including  linking service year with student learning, impact research, and gap year service—was  outlined by Dean Alan Solomont of Tisch College at Tufts University; Marlboro College President Kevin Quigley; and U.N. Volunteers researcher Ben Lough of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

These panel discussion produced a resolution that highlighted five major priorities:

  1. Engage service abroad programs to more effectively address the 2030 SDGs by mobilizing 10,000 additional service year and short-term volunteers annually and partnerships that leverage local capacity and volunteers in host communities.
  2. Promote a new generation of global leaders through global service fellowships promoting service and study abroad.
  3. Expand cross-sectorial participation and partnerships.
  4. Engage more volunteers of all ages in service abroad.
  5. Study and foster best practices across international service programs, measure community impact, and ensure the highest quality of volunteer safety, well-being, and confidence.

Caprara noted in his article, “Participants agreed that it’s through these types of efforts that volunteer service could become a common strategy throughout the world for meeting pressing challenges. Moreover, the cooperation of individuals and organizations will be vital in laying a foundation on which governments and civil society can build a more prosperous, healthy, and peaceful world.”

In addition, the Building Bridges Coalition produced a webinar on the role of volunteers in achieving the SDGs.  Here is a slide show from the event, as well as the audio.

The Building Bridges Coalition is an all-volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The coalition encourages international volunteer organizations, large and small, to become members, as well as individuals interested in international volunteer service; there are fees associated with membership. As of the start of 2016, the BBC has seven working groups addressing the issues of greatest interest to coalition members.

Tech & communications jargon versus reality

The Guardian, a media organization based in the UK, has a wonderful online program called the Global Professionals Network, “a space for NGOs, aid workers and development professionals to share knowledge and expertise”. They also have an occasional feature called “The Secret Aidworker,” a column written by anonymous aid workers, talking about the not-so-great parts of humanitarian work.

The most recent blog is an aid worker talking about the “dark side” of humanitarian / development communications. Like me, she trained as a journalist, and it affects both her approach and her ethics regarding public relations and marketing. I was so struck by these two paragraphs from her blog:

The international community is too focused on using gimmicks in outreach campaigns rather than considering who their audience is and what they want. I was recently asked to design an outreach campaign to educate the local community we work in about the work we do. So keeping in mind the low literacy rate of our audience and the limited access they have to online and print media, I designed a communications campaign accordingly. However, that was considered old and outdated.

For my organisation, the use of new technology such as apps and social media held priority over the local regional media, even though I explained much of these were inaccessible to the people we were trying to reach. Too often people think that if a country has access to the internet and mobile phones, every one has access. They don’t consider the cost of mobile data, the literacy rate, or if the locals would even use their devices the same way as in the US and Europe.

Oh, I SO hear this! Not just in humanitarian work, but in all communications work for nonprofits, governments and other mission-based organizations, anywhere. I hear from nonprofits wanting to explore using SnapChat that haven’t updated their web site in months.They want to host a hackathon to develop an app while their manager of volunteers is refused money for posters for a volunteer recruitment campaign. They want to know the best engagement analytics software to purchase while their online community is quiet for weeks, with no staff posting questions, no volunteers sharing information, etc. They want a crowdsourced fundraising campaign but haven’t sent thank you’s to donors this year. They want a viral online marketing campaign to promote something but balk at the idea of a staff person visiting area communities of faith and civic clubs to build personal relationships with local people, especially groups that represent minorities that are under-represented within the organization’s volunteer, client and donor base.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have long been a promoter and advocate of ICT4D. I wrote one of the first papers – back in 2001 – about handheld devices, what were then called PDAs (personal digital assistants), in health and human services, citizens’ reporting, advocacy, etc. I am a pioneer regarding virtual volunteering. I use, and advise on the use of, social media to promote a variety of information and network with others. I regularly post to TechSoup’s Public Computing, ICT4D, and Tech4Good community forum branch about apps4good – smart phone applications meant to educate people about maternal health, help women leave abusive relationships, connect people with emergency housing and more. So I certainly cannot be accused of being a Luddite. But with all that said, I also still see the value of, and know how to leverage, printed flyers, printed posters, paper newsletters, lawn signs, newspaper ads, radio ads, radio interviews, TV interviews, TV ads, onsite speaking engagements, display tables, display booths and other “old fashioned” ways of communicating.

This aid workers blog reminds me of the early days of the World Wide Web, when I would hear an executive director of a nonprofit or the director of a government program talk about how great the agency’s new web site was, but as they talked, I realized they’d never looked at it themselves, and weren’t really fully aware of what the Internet was.

wizardToo many senior staff are bedazzled by buzzwords and jargon they’ve heard from consultants, giving their employees orders to do something based only on what they think is “hip” now. I am just as frustrated by organizations that overly-focus on the latest social media fads for communications as I am by organizations that ignore all things Internet and smart phone-related.

What should you do if you face this in the work place? Use small words and lots of data with your senior staff, and stay tenacious. Remember that a list of potential expenses and budgets for time can make a case for you to do a comprehensive, realistic communications plan. And be explicit and detailed on how your communications efforts will be evaluated for effectiveness.

My other blogs that relate to this:

Tweeters re: Cuba development & ICT4D

A follow-up to my post yesterday, about my visit to Cuba last month and a review of Internet access / digital literacy in Havana. I’m compiling a list of Twitter accounts relating to Cuba, particularly regarding human, community and environmental development issues and ICT4D. So far:

  • @ONU_Cuba – Sistema de Naciones Unidas en Cuba (various United Nations agencies in Cuba)
  • @FAOCuba – Noticias e información sobre alimentación, agricultura y lucha contra el hambre compartidas por la Representación de la FAO en Cuba
  • @cubaperiodistas – La Unión de Periodistas de Cuba agrupa a los profesionales de la información y se creó el 15 de julio de 1963.
  • @AcnuUnacuba – ONG cubana sin fines de lucro. Defendemos y divulgamos principios y la Carta ONU. Tenemos Status consultivo ante ECOSOC.
  • @ETECSA_Cuba – Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. Fundada en 1994. Operador de servicios de telefonía Fija, Móvil y Datos.
  • @MINCOMCuba – Las Comunicaciones al servicio de la sociedad
  • @CubarteNews – Music, dance, painting, theater, the extraordinary, dynamic, intense Cuban cultural setting.
  • @CubanSP – Cuban Partnerships, Hosting #BroadcastCuba2015 in Havana for #broadcast #telecom #radio #TV professionals.
  • @economistacuba – El Economista de Cuba
  • @fossworkshopCub – Foss Workshop Cuba (hasn’t been updated since 2015)
  • @tinamodotti71 – Cubana, periodista y editora del portal www.cubasi.cu
  • @cimarron61 – Rafel Campoamor, ciberactivista por el empoderamiento ciudadano a través de las TICs en Cuba y el Tercer Mundo. Bridging the digital divide. Empowerrment through ICT.
  • @InformaticaHab – Evento internacional del sector TIC con mas de 20 ediciones celebradas, tiene lugar en La Habana, Cuba cada dos años. Also @InformaticaHav.
  • @ffxmania – Firefoxmanía, comunidad de Mozilla de Cuba
  • @BloghumanOS – humanOS surgió para contribuir al fomento del uso del software libre en Cuba.

Feel free to add to this list! You can add such in the comments, or tweet me at @jcravens42

UNV announces Online Volunteering Award 2015

UNLogoToday – 30 November 2015 – the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program announced winners of the UNV Online Volunteering Award 2015, celebrating both volunteers and volunteer hosting organizations on the UN’s Online Volunteering Service, and launched a global voting campaign for the public’s favorite, to be announced on December 5.

Profiles of the five organizations chosen for the award, and their online volunteers, are here (and this is where you vote as well). The organizations are Association des Agriculteurs Professionels du Cameroun (AGRIPO), Fundación de Comunidades Vulnerables de Colombia (FUNCOVULC), Hunger Reduction International, Seeds Performing Arts Theatre Group in Papua New Guinea, and a digital media campaign run by UN Women. Each effort also has a tag regarding which sustainable development goals it supports.

If you know me, then you know which one of the winners immediately jumped out at me and what I voted for: Seeds Performing Arts Theatre Group in Papua New Guinea. The group uses live theatre performance to raise awareness on issues affecting the local rural population, including violence against women, and to inspire and implement social change. Seeds teamed up with a group of online volunteers via the UN’s Online Volunteering service to develop a screenplay for a video about the specific gender-based violence associated with witch hunting. The traditional belief in sorcery is used to justify violence against women in Papua New Guinea, and inhumane treatment of innocent women accused of sorcery is common in rural parts of the island as sorcery is thought to account for unexplained deaths or misfortunes in a family or village.

After voting, you are encouraged to copy the following message to your profile on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or whatever social media channel you use:

Just voted for my favourite Online #VolunteeringAward winner. You can, too! https://goo.gl/CTGVfS #ActionCounts #GlobalGoals” and encourage others to recognize the true value and worth of online volunteers!

In 2014, according to UNV, more than 11,000 online volunteers undertook more than 17,000 online volunteering assignments through the service, and 60 percent of these online volunteers come from developing countries. I had the pleasure of directing the service at UNV for four years, from February 2001 to February 2014, successfully moving the platform from NetAid to UNV entirely, engaging in various activities that made the service the first link when searching the term online volunteering on Google (I also made it #1 when searching the term virtual volunteering, but that’s no longer true), vastly increasing the number of online opportunities available for organizations on the platform and authoring materials to support organizations engaging online volunteers that are still used by UNV. I still promote the site to any organizations working in or for regions in the developing world as the best way to recruit online volunteers.

Also see:

The Virtual Volunteering Wiki

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook

My research on Theater as a Tool for Development/Theatre as a Tool for Development

Oregon global initiatives

When you think of USA-based initiatives focused on development and humanitarian work in other countries, you think of New York or Washington, D.C. You will find a fair number in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well.

But there are organizations and initiatives all over the USA, in every state, with a primary mission of undertaking development and humanitarian work in at least one country overseas. Even in Oregon.

I come from a state – Kentucky – that most people I mean outside the USA could not locate on a map, and many have no idea its a real place. And I now live in a state that, likewise, most people I meet outside the USA could not locate on a map – in fact, many have never heard of Oregon. Yet, in both states, there are for-profit, nonprofit and university-based initiatives that are focused on other countries.

I decided to make a list of nonprofit and university-based organizations and initiatives in Oregon that were undertaking aid, humanitarian and/or development work overseas. I also added organizations focused on educating people regarding other countries/global affairs. The first draft was 10 organizations. It’s now a list of 21 organizations.

I started this page because, as a consultant myself for organizations working in development and humanitarian activities overseas, I would like to know who my colleagues in my own “neighborhood” are, and because I would like for people in the USA to be much better educated about other countries – so I’d like to know who is doing that. Also, Washington State has a formal umbrella organization, Global Washington, for groups in that state that work overseas, though it’s not focused only on humanitarian issues. Oregon doesn’t have such, that I can find.

If you would like to add an organization to my last, please contact me. But note: your initiative has to be officially registered in some way, or already part of an officially-registered organization, and there needs to be names of real people on your web site (one web site I found for a 501 (c)(3) organization claiming to work overseas had NO names of people on it – no names of staff, no names of board members – so they aren’t on my list).

 

World Humanitarian Day is TODAY

Here we are again: it’s World Humanitarian Day, August 19, an annual day, designated by the UN General Assembly, to recognize those who help others regarding humanitarian issues – addressing human welfare, help people facing a natural or man-made disaster, helping in post-conflict situations, helping improve the lives of marginalized groups, etc. It’s a day to honor of aid workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, as well as to celebrate the lifesaving work that humanitarians carry out around the world every day, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances, where others cannot or do not want to go.

I encourage you to blog about the work of aid and development workers today, and to use a Facebook status update and a Tweet today to celebrate humanitarian workers as well. #humanitarianheroes is the official tag of the day, though I think a lot of folks are reluctant to use it when talking about themselves as humanitarians. Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page: World Humanitarian Day.

Recently, while hiking in a state park in Utah, I got into a conversation with another visitor. When she found out I had worked in Afghanistan in 2007 (because of my t-shirt), she said, “Thank you for your service.” Since I have heard this comment by people from the USA only for people in the military, I said, “Oh, ma’am, I wasn’t in the military. I was an aid worker.” And she said, “You should still be thanked for your service.”

While there’s nothing at all extraordinary about my work in Afghanistan, Egypt, Germany, or Ukraine, there are some amazing humanitarian workers out there. They spend years away from their families and risk their lives to do their work. Some are injured. Many are harmed long-term, emotionally and mentally, by the stress of their work. Some are kidnapped. Some are killed. I knew one of the people killed in Iraq on this day in 2003, in the bombing that targeted the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq created just 5 days earlier; we’d sat in a meeting together in Bonn when he was in a different role in a different country, and when he heard me tell about the UN’s Online Volunteering service, he stopped me from speaking, called his assistant back in the country where he was serving, and said, “Look into this web site; we’re going to be doing a lot with it soon.”

These people not only help with immediate help during and after disasters, providing food, heath care, housing, etc. – that’s often the easy part. Humanitarians also help local people rebuild their governments. They help local people engage in activities to bring about peace and reconciliation – something that is never, ever easy. They do the stuff that isn’t easy to take a photo of or put on a poster – but that’s every bit as important as any other aspect of humanitarian aid.

Thank you, colleagues. Thank you, humanitarians. Thank you for your service.

How to Get a Job with the United Nations or Other International Humanitarian or Development Organization.

How to Make a Difference Internationally/Globally/in Another Country Without Going Abroad.

What a work day is like – so far

A few of you have asked what my work day here at the UN is like. So, for those interested:

I have a driver that takes me to the office every day, something my host, an American that’s lived here for many years, so generously arranged. I don’t think he’s an official taxi, but he gets the job done. It’s a 5-10 minute drive, or a 40 minute walk. I’m keeping the car for my entire time here to drive me to work, but once it cools off, I’ll start walking home every day.

I try to get to the UN offices a few minutes before 9 a.m. To me, that’s a really late start to the work day – at home, I often start before 8! Because of the time difference with the West, you get much more out of your day here in Kyiv at the UN HQ, in terms of being able to connect with people outside the country, if you work later rather than earlier. Because of that late start to the day, I can do a lot from home before I come into the office:  check my personal email and other personal communications, then my own professional email for my consulting, etc. I also check my UN email before I come in, to see if there is anything urgent, but I don’t reply to anything, unless it’s urgent, until I’m in the office. I prohibit myself from personal social media activities at work. I’ll post work-related items to my Facebook page and a bit to Twitter – and reading those is a good way to be most up-to-date on what I’m working on – but anything fun has to happen outside of work hours (some things do sneak in over lunch here).

I share my office with the UN communications manager, who is from Ukraine. I go through several tasks as soon as I plug in and start up my computer to catch me up-to-speed for the day:

First, I read ReliefWeb’s updates from various resources about Ukraine. Sources are from all over the spectrum: from the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Russia Today, Amnesty International, UNICEF, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Guardian (in the UK) and more. This let’s me know what my colleagues are going to be dealing with most urgently, what the press or donors might be calling about, etc. I don’t have to deal with the press or donors, but I’ve got to be ready to help my colleagues do so. My colleagues can’t wait for me to get up-to-speed in a meeting – I’ve got to come into the meeting with a basic understanding of current happenings. This is how I do it.

Then I glance through the tweets of everyone on my Twitter list for Ukraine. This further educates me about what’s “hot” in the country right now, particularly regarding political opinion, something that’s vital to know, as public opinion influences government and donors. Again, my colleagues can’t wait for me to catch up in meetings – I’ve got to come in already understanding ever-changing contexts.

I also look at some Twitter feeds specifically, in the morning and afternoon:
@UN_Ukraine (my office mate manages this account)
@UNDPUkraine (manager of this is just down the hall)
UNICEF_UA
and I do a search on OCHA Ukraine (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) to see what comes up. This keeps me up-to-date on what all the various UN offices are doing, in terms of communication and public programs. I’m here for just two months, and there’s no time for weekly meetings – this is how I stay up-to-speed on what’s going on so I can make appropriate recommendations regarding communication, especially in reports to donors.

And amid all this, or after it, I work on various projects: writing something, editing something, researching something, meeting with someone – as directed/needed by colleagues. I never know when a project or meeting will demand my attention until just a few minutes before it arrives, usually. I always makes sure that I have a project to work on in-between the sudden spurts of urgent things to do – I’ll create one if I have to. That’s essential in this work, to always be able to look for something to do – not just busy work, but something needed, that will actual help colleagues in some way.

In my first two weeks I’ve:

  • Drafted a very important strategy briefing document (took a LOT of research and rewrites and meetings)
  • Drafted a Twitter guide to help ramp up and evolve Twitter activities by UN offices here (also took a LOT of research), and bugged my communications colleagues with “try this” emails regarding immediate adjustments to make re: social media.
  • Advised on an app to help citizens report infrastructure issues to the government
  • Researched whether or not our offices might need a policy re: editing Wikipedia (such editing is easily monitored by citizen activists and even some hostile “bodies”, and conflict of interest editing can turn into a PR nightmare; I doubt anyone is editing Wikipedia from the office, but this is a VERY tech savvy country – I’m trying to think preventatively).
  • Had various ideas bounced off of me by the communications staff here for various events, announcements, activities, etc.
  • Participated in various meetings, mostly about coordination of humanitarian and aid programs.
  • Asked a lot of questions, listened, taken a lot of notes, listened to drafts of speeches, read lots and lots of information so I can write about various topics when called upon, read and responded to a lot of emails…

Unlike Afghanistan, I have complete freedom of movement here, there’s consistent electricity, everyone has a smart phone (not just a cell phone), no one has asked me for a bribe, and the country’s most urgent aid and development needs – and they are urgent, and sad, and often horrific – seem so far away… and that makes this experience surreal at times.

The first week, I left every day at 6, but this week, I’m leaving at 6:30, and next week, who knows, perhaps I’ll stay even later. The car is waiting for me and takes me home, and my work day is done – though I admit to checking work mail one more time before bed, and responding as needed.

That’s how my days have gone my first two weeks here. The glamourous life if aid and development work…

I’m in Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

Yes, I’m in I’m in Kiev (Kyiv), Urkaine for this UN two-month assignment. I hope to blog in-depth about my work soon, but for now, I’m just too busy (it’s only day two here at work) and too tired once I get home. Two things I’m working on: articulating a very big strategy (have to have a draft by next week) and coming up with communications ideas in relation to the global celebrations for World Humanitarian Day (Aug. 19 – follow #humanitarianheroes and visit the official web site for more info).

I am already tweeting a bit – actually, mostly retweeting, re: info from UN agencies here, or information about here, that I’m finding helpful for my work. So follow me on Twitter if you’re interested.

My boss here in Ukraine is very full of energy and ideas! He’s already given me much to do!  

Was pleased to find I’m in the same building as the UN Volunteer program officer and three UNVs! Their work isn’t really the primary focus of my work… but you just KNOW I won’t be able to stay away from them….

Jayne in Kiev, Ukraine for all August & Sept.

For all of August and September, I will be the SURGE Communications Officer in Kiev, Ukraine, and assist UNDP Ukraine and other UN country teams with the development and day-to-day implementation of communications and publication strategies. I’ll also monitor progress of the UN country teams response to the crises in Ukraine “with a view to influence the development agenda,” by helping with public and media outreach, to help people to understand the work and accomplishments of  UNDP in Ukraine. I’ll be helping to build the capacities of the staff to continue these communications activities long after I’ve gone.

Supposedly, I’ll get to work with various communications managers, staff of other UN Agencies, government officials, international and local media, multi-lateral and bi-lateral donors and civil society. According to the job description, I’ll be:

  • Planning and designing internal and external strategies for communications and outreach
  • Supervising the design and maintenance of the UNDP web site and intranets (and I hope other online activities as well)
  • Facilitating knowledge building and knowledge sharing
  • Etc.

That’s a tall order in two months, but I’m ready! I love getting to work in my first love: communications in development programs. I love designing and carrying out communications plans, but I also love building the capacity of people to communicate, to deliver effective messages, to anticipate issues, to be responsive, etc. My favorite work in Afghanistan, the last time I worked for the UN, was building public sector staff communications capacities in Afghanistan, something I squeezed in amid my primary responsibilities of writing and editing reports for various institutions, and I continue to do that capacity-building work with Afghan colleagues to this day, as an online volunteer. I’m so looking forward to getting to do this kind of work again!

I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m thrilled, I’m scared – not of the political situation in Ukraine but of meeting the expectations of this job!

Of course, this has come at a cost: I was to present in Austin, Texas in September, to do a volunteer management training for AmeriCorps members in Portland, Oregon, to do a training back in my hometown of Henderson, Kentucky, and lots of personal plans. There were people I haven’t seen in many, many years, and people I was to meet onsite, face-to-face, that I’ve known only online, all lined up for August and September. That’s the cost of doing this type of short-term work overseas – it never happens at a convenient time. And, of course, I’m missing the very best time to be in Oregon – and will be missing my husband terribly.

The worst part, though, is Delta Airlines: I already have a roundtrip ticket booked with them for Germany, for a vacation with my husband. My Ukraine contract ends just three days before I was to arrive in Germany from the USA. You would think Delta would simply let me keep that ticket – already paid for – and then just not use the USA to Germany part, allowing me to simply buy a flight from Kiev to Frankfurt, and then using just the return ticket – again, it’s all already paid for. And you would be WRONG. Unless I fly out from the USA to Germany, I would pay almost $5000 for the flight back from Germany to the USA! If I don’t show up for the outbound flight, they will cancel my return ticket! So I have to fly all the way back to the USA from Ukraine, stay TWO days, and get right back on a plane for Europe. Can you believe it?!? There is no logic for this. None. None whatsoever.

Anyway, I’ll post updates about my work here and via my various online social network channels.

If you are or have been in Kiev, Ukraine, do drop me a line with any advice you have!

Reaching women in socially-conservative areas

This was originally posted on my blog in October 2009

While I was in Afghanistan, I was notorious for kicking-back field reports that stated “the community was consulted” about this or that project, but that never said if the decision-making included any women. Sadly, the report writers often came back to me with a scowl and lots of excuses about why women weren’t included when “the community was consulted.”

When you work in humanitarian and development efforts, you must always be aware that talking to the official leadership of a community, a region, whatever, does not mean you are hearing about the needs of all citizens, such as minority populations or even majority populations — women. There are ways to seek out and include women in even socially-conservative areas so that they can be a part of decision-making.

A good example of this is an intervention in Egypt which used Egyptian women to reach other women regarding eye care, highlighted in a brief article by the Community Eye Health Journal. The successful strategy they employed was this:

  • The team undertaking the intervention held various meetings and presentations to establish a trusting relationship with local policy makers, local health authorities, local community leaders, local non-government organizations (NGOs), etc.
  • The team used this network to explain that women weren’t receiving eye care at the same rate as men, and that saving or restoring women’s sight benefits the whole family.
  • The team used this network to identify local women with previous experience in community development projects who could be trained to reach female community members in the intervention villages, as they would be able to enter homes and meet with women without coming into conflict with local cultural practices.
  • 42 women were trained over three days, and 30 were selected as “health visitors,”
  • The health visitors then visited 90 per cent of the population in the two intervention villages from March to December 2007.
  • During each visit, health visitors explained to women that saving or restoring their own sight would benefit the whole family. Each family received a variety of educational materials, including a calendar with illustrations relating to eye care and information on the importance of seeking eye care for the women in the household.

The result of training local women to do the outreach to other local women was a huge surge in the number of women receiving eye care as part of this intervention. And maybe something more: a change in the way the community viewed the value of its women? That wasn’t measured, unfortunately.

Of course, Egypt isn’t Afghanistan. Every country presents special challenges when it comes to reaching women regarding development interventions. But there’s always a way! Regardless of your role in humanitarian or development efforts, always make reaching women a priority.

What’s your advice?

See also:
Folklore, Rumors (or Rumours) and Urban Myths Interfering with Development and Aid/Relief Efforts, and Government Initiatives (and how these are overcome)
and
Building Staff Capacities to Communicate and Present (materials developed for Afghanistan).