|Resources, Power and Women, Proceedings of the African and Asian Inter-regional Workshop on Strategies for Improving the Employment Conditions of Rural Women (ILO, 1985, 96 p.)|
Martha Loutfi in her presentation on Approaches to Technical Co-operation emphasised the fundamental characteristics of ILO's technical cooperation concerning rural women, that is:
- primary attention Co an organisational basis which is necessary for the people's needs and priorities to be articulated and for the people to develop and manage their own projects and thus to become self-reliant;
- making use of local expertise as well as use of local resources to meet local needs (or where local resources are not available, sought from nearby areas or countries);
- supporting intermediaries who work on a basis of collaboration and reciprocity with the rural poor with people who are willing to go and stay in the villages;
- assessing the viability of activities considered before introducing new activities, by making market surveys and carrying out participatory evaluations of existing projects and situations; and
- promotion of dialogue, exchange and collective analysis among the people.
A few examples were taken up. Reference was made to the presentation on West Bengal, India, in Panel 2 (see Chapter 4) which started with a labour camp for 34 participants and has led to a major wasteland development programme through women's organisations. This evolution which could not have been foreseen, shows how much there is to be learned from rural women. In Senegal animatrices were involved in activating co-operatives of fish processors as well as palm oil producers to gain access to local technologies, with the expectation that the method of work of animatrices could be made more responsive and participatory.
In Somalia three years ago, during drought followed by floods, refugee women were encouraged to take up activities in which they could use their own skills and local materials to produce priority goods for distribution. Six hundred women were engaged in mat-making. This evolved into an integrated project with male and female participants engaged in poultry raising, soap making, vegetable growing and other gainful activities. The very dependent situation of Chose refugees may now turn into their ability to manage their own situations as some of them have joined with local staff to create their own organisation ("Haqabtir" - "to satisfy a need") to take over the project activities and expand their effort in favour of disadvantaged groups in rural areas.
Key elements of technical co-operation from the ILO's perspective are the following:
- donor support being committed before a detailed spelling out of inputs and equipment, expertise, activity and specific outputs, etc. (however, with clear objectives and means of action);
- additional flexibility of funding with some fund allocation not being specified at all (an "aid fund") so that quick responses according to emerging needs at the grass-roots become possible; and
- acceptance of the reality that development, especially among poor women, is a slow process and needs time to reach its goals.
Without these key elements, neither participation nor workability of the projects is possible. Projects should preferably also be intercountry or interregional to serve a valuable cross-fertilisation purpose and to encourage new initiatives.
Finally, the value of participatory research and meetings should be emphasised - it is too easily undervalued not only by donors and international agencies but also by governments. Research is often the best way to start action although it cannot necessarily always be predicted (let alone assured) in advance. This became apparent in the case of lacemakers of Narsapur in India (where about 4,000 women workers are now organised through the National Union of Working Women) as well as with women plantation workers in Sri Lanka (where research led to discussions among women trade union members, recommendations to their union leadership, plantation level committees and a co-ordinating committee whose leaders helped sister workers in Malaysia). Research on rural fuel, work and linkages with family nutrition is leading to action in five countries in three continents.
Meetings should be considered essential at the grass-root level but they are also valuable at the national, regional and inter-regional level for advancing thinking, strategies and action. And some action is, of course, an expected result of any researcher going to a village: e.g. taking findings back, discussing and helping people to formulate their own schemes.
In the discussion that followed the best ways and approaches to improve working conditions of the deprived part of the population were raised. It was questioned whether it could be done best by projects or by organising, whether people's movements should be built first and whether organisers and leaders were needed or whether collective leadership to avoid dependence was possible.
The value of research per se was questioned. It was pointed out that research can be dominating, patronising and colonial too. It is the type of research that matters as well as who is participating in it and who has access to it. The need for critical and participatory research was emphasised.
It was also questioned whether people in all cases could come out with project proposals without first being exposed to more information.