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close this bookVolunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)
close this folderII. Insights derived from community-based programmes
View the document(introduction...)
Open this folder and view contentsUrban informal sector
View the documentLow-income housing
View the documentInfrastructure and basic services
View the documentHealth and HIV/AIDS prevention
View the documentNon-formal education and functional literacy
View the documentWomen, gender and development
View the documentChildren of the street
View the documentImplications for VSAs

Women, gender and development

In the community-based programmes described above, there is an underlying assumption that programmes must be gender-sensitive and include the participation of women in them. Yet often the project's original design was not explicit about the concerns of women and their potential role. In all the successful programmes, however, women came to play a key role and the project design was amended in practice. Conversely, programmes which had minimal impact did not include attention to gender-related concerns, nor did they focus on the development of leadership skills among women.

There are many examples of successful projects which focused specifically on the concerns of women, such as the project entitled "Civic Awareness and Life-related Skills for Girls and women," implemented by CERID, an NGO in Nepal. An evaluation of the project revealed many positive results in targeting women: increased solidarity of women's groups and greater participation of women in community activities; more joint learning and sharing; and an improvement in services, such as childcare.

Concerning the participation of women in informal sector employment (normally in the lowest occupational categories, with young girls as the last link in a chain of subcontracting), there are interesting findings related to women and credit. Studies reveal that women are often better credit risks than men, and that working capital and consumption loans are particularly important. Other cases found that financial stability and a steady source of family income are sometimes more important than business or profit expansion; for women entrepreneurs, the transition point from trading to manufacturing and marketing is vital; group formation and consciousness-raising are critical first steps in any project; there should be a focus on subsectors where women already play a dominant role; educational courses must take into account prior obligations of women; and labour-saving technologies have an immense impact in lightening the daily chores of women. It is also important that employment needs are matched by access to basic services such as health and nutrition programmes, good sanitation and education.

The characteristics of, and issues related to, women-headed households (WHH), need greater attention. The majority of households in low-income urban areas are women-headed, especially in Latin America, and increasingly in Africa. The inter-related issues of urban migration, employment, and child-care, for example, need to be explored in more depth to better address these concerns. Time constraints and labour demands may dictate that project activities must be near the home; credit-schemes involving financing and repayment schedules must be tailored to individual cash-flow patterns.