Ntankah village women common initiative group a model for rural women s empowerment by sasha hart
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Ntankah Village Women Common Initiative Group: A Model for Rural Women’s Empowerment By: Sasha Hart. Research Question: What strategies does Ntankah employ to empower Cameroonian rural women? How does the group promote and create the conditions necessary for rural women’s empowerment?

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Ntankah village women common initiative group a model for rural women s empowerment by sasha hart l.jpg
Ntankah Village Women Common Initiative Group:A Model for Rural Women’s EmpowermentBy: Sasha Hart

  • Research Question: What strategies does Ntankah employ to empower Cameroonian rural women? How does the group promote and create the conditions necessary for rural women’s empowerment?

  • Presented at the Making Equal Rights Real Conference, May 1, 2010 , McGill University


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Cameroonian Rural Women:A Disadvantaged Population

  • Higher rural poverty rates

  • Women earn 50% less than males

  • Trapped in the informal sector of economy

  • Oppressive socio-cultural traditions

  • Lack of political representation (only 9%)

  • Lack of access to resources and information; Illiteracy

  • HIV/AIDS prevalence rates twice as high among women

  • Landlessness


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Empowerment Conceptualized:A Literature Review

Empowerment Defined:

  • A process (rather than a single intervention)

  • A goal involving an increase in agency, power, ability

    A Multi-dimensional Process:

  • Internal (ie: personal transformation/ self-esteem) & External (ie: structural barriers) change

  • Strategic gender needs (ie: structural root causes of women’s subordinated status) & “Practical gender needs” (ie: basic and immediate human needs) [Moser 1989]

    Stages of Empowerment

  • Position of oppression  Conscientization  Political action  Change [Carr 2003]


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Women’s Groups in Cameroon:New Empowerment Approaches Needed

  • Work of Cameroonian women’s groups often not comprehensive enough to meet both the practical and strategic gender needs outlined by Moser [Fonjong 2001]

  • While the level of poverty among women has been reduced as a result of NGO work, there has been no real change to their subordinate status, and therefore, “more measures are needed to tackle the root causes of gender inequalities and remove barriers hampering women’s involvement” [Fonjong 2001]

Case Study: Is Ntankah a model?


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Methodology

  • Selection of case study: International recognition; participatory strategies; evidence of success (meeting both practical and strategic gender needs)

  • Data collection :

    • 48 Interviews (semi-structured individual & focus groups) with group members, group leaders, project supervisors, local leaders

    • Program Observations


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RESULTS: Ntankah’s Strategic Empowerment Approach

  • Focus: “To improve the long-termsocio-economic conditions of members in particular and women in general…”

ACTIVITIES

(Targeting both practical and strategic gender needs)


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RESULTS:Ntankah’s Strategic Empowerment Approach

  • Activities target practical & strategic gender needs and out of these flow internal & external transformation


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Obstacles

Resources

  • Lack of finances (to apply skills learned/sustain certain activities)

  • Lack of adequate farming technology (tools, fertilizers)

  • Low prices received for produce

    Environmental

  • Poverty (prevents some women from participating)

  • Long distances (to farm, market, cassava mills); Bad roads

  • Conservative forces

    Organizational

  • More Follow-up on training needed

  • Punctuality

  • Some members not as committed/active

  • Director plays too much of central role

  • Governing structure

  • Illiteracy not being tackled

  • Corruption accusations; gossiping


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Lessons Learned

Empowerment Process

  • Dynamic & nuanced; non-linear: Women’s empowerment is an on-going process that must be achieved via multiple routes, on multiple different levels, and by engaging multiple different actors

  • Importance of education (knowledge transference/conscientization); self-esteem; collective action

  • Diversified range of activities needed to tackle practical/strategic gender needs and to effectuate internal/external change

  • Possible outcomes: self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and gender equality


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Lessons Learned

Self-esteem

  • Pivotal to the empowerment process—as an end in itself, and also a means to spur external change

  • Self-esteem building should be a specific target in empowerment initiatives—Knowledge transference/conscientization/ awareness= futile without self-esteem

  • Self-esteem building is a slow process

    Other lessons

  • Education/sensitization can increase civic participation (women began actively claiming rights once they were sensitized about them)

  • Peer support function of community-based women’s groups


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