In the year 2000, world leaders came together to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, a new commitment to reduce extreme poverty through a series of time-bound targets by 2015 - the Millennium Development Goals. The third MDG, "to promote gender equality and empower women", cuts across all the other goals, in recognition of the fact that global poverty will not be reduced without empowering women to function as leaders in development at all levels.
The Huairou Commission began the MDG 3 Accountability Initiative with financial support from the Dutch Foreign Ministry in 2009 in order to support Huairou Commission member groups to develop greater awareness around the MDGs, use the MDGs as a local and national advocacy tool and to continue increasing women's participation, influencing decision-making and securing assets, particularly land and housing. Women's political power and their control and ownership of assets are key components of women's empowerment. Forty-two grassroots women's organizations and networks in 27 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America participated in the initiative, demonstrating and advancing women's empowerment by stepping up women's political participation and working to secure assets for women, particularly land and housing.
The Four Themes of Women's Empowerment in the Huairou Commission's MDG3 Accountability Initiative
Empowered women act as informed participants in development processes instead of recipients of government services. They are able to articulate their work from a position of strength and are recognized by their community and government authorities as social actors.
1. Leadership and organizing
Self-esteem, knowledge, leadership and organizing skills are core elements for women to act as social leaders and to engage in decision-making at the family, community and institutional levels. Women organize and mobilize together when they realize that they are capable of changing their lives. Women become autonomous through a relationship building that is strengthened collectively and collaboratively. Collaboration and support replace vertical and competitive ideas of leadership. This is a cross-cutting aspect of all groups` activities.
Bridging the gap between female authorities and grassroots women is crucial for developing legitimate and effective gender agendas. Increasing the number of women in political office does not necessarily guarantee a legitimate and effective gender agenda. Female authorities [elected officials] often do not have any knowledge of poor women`s needs and realities. Female authorities, in addition, need grassroots women`s support to implement their agendas that are often ignored by dominant male peers. Through Local-to-Local Dialogues (link) and partnerships grassroots women from FEMUM, Unión de Cooperativas las Brumas, UCOBAC (add full name pls) and Groots Peru have enhanced governance mechanisms and impacted decision-making processes.
3. Economic empowerment
Women`s saving groups and cooperatives have been developed as an strategy for women to gain economic empowerment and develop the opportunity to make decisions on how to invest their resources to improve their lives and communities. Economic empowerment of grassroots women goes beyond income generation to include women`s ability to support each other in decisions on investing their assets. Grassroots group Lumanti, in Nepal, sees economic development as the first door of empowerment, and India-based SSP emphasizes savings and credit groups as a vehicle for political organizing and leadership building. The women of Ser do Sertão, a cooperative in the rural north of Brazil, in turn, combine high quality food production with marketing to improve women`s resources and community nutritional standards.
4. Enforcing women`s access, ownership and control of land and housing
Amongst the main issues grassroots women have struggled to address to local and national authorities is the lack of access and control over land. Organizations have organized to advocate for inclusive laws (RMW), gender sensitive land regularization processes (GSF, GWEC, Espaço Feminista, MWEDO) and just financial mechanisms to acquire land (MWEDO, PPLZ,). Anti-eviction exchanges and strategies have also been developed by women to advance women`s rights to land and housing (PPLZ, UPDW, LOCOA, COPE, FRSN, Uplinks).
List of Participating Groups in the Huairou Commission MDG 3 Accountability Initiative
1. Alianza de Mujeres Lideres de la Region del Istmo de Tehuantepec, Mexico
2. Articulacao das Mulheres do Rio (Corte & Arte, Bordadeiras da Coroa,
Arteiras, Conselho de Mulheres da Zona Oeste (COMZO), Filhas de Santa do Centro
Comunitario Julio Otoni), Brazil
3. AWARE, Uganda
4. Bancos Comunales, Peru
5. Centro das Mulheres Pombos, Brazil
6. Centro de Atencion a la Mujer Trabajadora de Chihuahua, Mexico
7. Comité de Emergencia Garifuna, Honduras
8. CONOMIVIDI, Peru
9. Unión de Cooperativas las Brumas, Nicaragua
10. DAMPA, Philippines
11. Espaco Feminista, Brazil;
12. Federacion de Mujeres Municipalistas de America Latina y el Caribe
13. Federación de Mujeres Municipalistas de América Latina y El Caribe
14. Four Regions Slum Network, Thailand
15. Fundación Guatemala/CODIMM, Guatemala
16. Grassroots Sisterhood Foundation, Ghana
17. Groots Jamaica (Construction Resource and Development Centre, Sistren
Theatre Collective, Fletchersland Parenting Association), Jamaica
18. GROOTS Kenya
19. GROOTS Peru
20. Grassroots Women´s Empowerment Centre (GWEC), Philippines
21. Himawanti, Nepal
22. Himawanti, Pakistan
23. LACOA, S. Korea
24. Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA)
25. LUMANTI, Nepal
26. Centro de Mujeres de Candelaria, Bolivia
27. Mujeres Liderazas de Maipu en Seguridad, Chile
28. Mujeres Unidas/FOVELIC, Peru
29. MWEDO, Tanzania
30. Ntankah Village Women's Common Initiataive Group (CIG),
31. Participatory Development Action Program (PDAP), Bangladesh
32. Peoples Process, Zambia
33. Pintadas/ Coopertiva Ser do Sertao, Brazil
34. Red de Mujeres de Lima Este, Peru
35. Rural Women's Movement (RWM), South Africa
36. Rwanda Women's Network (RWN), Rwanda
37. Slum Women in Development (SWID), Uganda
38. Sundog Community, S. Korea
39. Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), India
40. Uganda Community Based Association for Child Welfare (UCOBAC), Uganda
41. Uniao dos Movimientos de Moradia Sao Paulo (UMMSP), Brazil
42. UPC/UPLINK, Indonesia
43. Urban Poor Women and Development (UPWD), Cambodia