The session began with the description of a grassroots survey implemented by the Grassroots Taskforce of the NGO Committee on Social Development. It was circulated in Spring of 2015 and its main objective was to learn more about community-based economic initiatives on a global scale. The survey received 70 responses from 26 countries. The topics measured included factors contributing to the effectiveness of projects, the sustainability of projects, the project’s impact on individuals, and the project’s impact on the community. Certain findings I found interesting included how most of the respondents claimed that their projects were sustainable. They discussed that variables outside the project’s control, mainly environmentally based, imposed on the believed sustainability of their projects. I was also fascinated by how the survey claimed that the effectiveness of projects related specifically to highly, participatory group approaches, projects that relied on monitoring and evaluation, and projects that understood local conditions and thus implemented feasible initiatives.
The second portion of the session consisted of four female lead NGOs who described economic initiatives in four different contexts. The first NGO was run by the Daughters of Charity located in the Fiji Islands who recycled trash into trinkets and goods such as purses and bracelets. Their aim is to empower women through developing skills and providing economic empowerment. The second NGO located in Albania and implemented by the Mary Ward Loreto Foundation. Their goal is to limit human trafficking through vocational training and youth development. By using youth projects, this NGO promotes self-understanding of young women to where they become self-aware and, through vocational training, become economically resilient and empowered. The third NGO, situated in a highly impoverished section of Zimbabwe, is run by DOMCPP (Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme). Using economic support, they purchased a grinding mill for the community that developed a sort of trickle down effect empowering women and men alike. Lastly, the final NGO located in India and called the Social Impact of the Economic Empowerment of Women in Kodaikanal, India. Using self-help groups to rally and connect women, they promote change within their patriarchal society through protesting capacity building.
Each group maintained that economic empowerment is key to reducing the multi-burden women in developing countries experience. Through economic resiliency, women and mothers can produce societal change by educating boys and girls at a young age regarding gender equality, help women reach new levels in their respecting government, reduce religious extremism by teaching a positive interpretation of scripture, help to foster family/ parenting-friendly spaces, will promote cohesion among genders, and develop expanded and reliant communities that help one another in times of need. In the end, I found all panelists inspiring by their dedication within their particular contexts, as well as their determination to promote gender empowerment around the world.