Empowering Civil Society and Women to Engage in Policy Processes
The project’s objective was to promote a new socio-political culture in Honduras that recognizes equal participation of women in democratic governance at the local, regional and national levels. The project prioritized women in rural living in extreme poverty. The target women had very few educational opportunities and had rarely participated in politics and in decision-making. The goal of the project was: to raise awareness among citizens on the importance of full and equal women’s participation in decision-making processes and equal access to justice; to strengthen the capacity of Civil Society Organisations to influence policy processes; and to institutionalize a Women’s Network at the local level. The project explicitly aimed to integrate the gender approach across all three outcomes.
Lessons from Project
To promote the actual application of human rights in Honduras, a debate should be organised to improve links between the actions achieved for and with women -their community-based organisations and networks – and the actions intended to strengthen the institutional mechanisms that guarantee their rights. The aim would be to get local authorities to sustainably integrate a pro-woman agenda both in terms of political representation and municipal budgeting. Democratic participation is fragile and currently depends on the willingness of the authority in power. But this willingness could be replaced by a framework of legitimate and lasting good governance.
Project follow-up should have included applied research. The goal of such research would be to analyse critically and comparatively the various experiences and advances encountered by the project. This exercise should identify, in the context of a fragile democracy, the modalities and the possible alternatives for optimising women’s empowerment and guaranteeing as much as possible the application of the legal framework, as well as following up and carrying out the recommended support or judicial measures.
The project outcomes were too ambitious to be met completely, especially when considering the limitations that resulted from the changes in the political context in Honduras during the first year of the project’s implementation (coup d’état, June 2009).
One of the grantee’s implementation partners perpetrated significant fraud and had to be excluded from the project. Thanks to the solvency of the grantee, its organisation was able to find appropriate solutions to respond to these situations: using its own funds, it paid out an amount equivalent to the fraud in order to guarantee the implementation of the activities that had been initially planned. Financial and technical follow-up procedures were developed to ensure transparency in the management and to guarantee a good level of efficiency. Moreover, the grantee provided support and reinforcement of the capabilities of its implementation partners in financial and technical areas as well as in managing human resources.
The grantee was a large international NGO. Its decision to implement this project with local partners reflected a collective strategic approach, centred on inter-institutional alliances and synergies. The local implementing partners involved succeeded in harmonising their strategic criteria and complementarity in the thematic and geographic areas of intervention.
Despite the coup d’état in Honduras, the project built up and maintained ‘spaces for visibility on women’s issues’. Thus the project strengthened women’s knowledge of their rights and their capabilities to defend and exercise these rights. It also provided women with a privileged place to participate in politics. The project therefore greatly contributed to the empowerment of women in a socio-political context that was characterised by the weakening, instability and lack of legitimacy of the spaces for democratic participation.
The project led to greater representation of women in decision making processes in the geographic areas covered by the project. The Women’s Network in the municipalities contributed to enhancing participation and also played a role in setting a municipal policy agenda and carrying out social audits. The project also succeeded in mobilizing community based organizations and women’s networks in extremely challenging socio-economic conditions of exclusion and extreme.