Effectiveness of Aid Interventions to Strengthen Collective Action that Facilitate Women’s Political Empowerment – Narrative Review
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This narrative review synthesises a selection of key evidence based on a rapid, non-systematic literature review (this makes it subject to limitations) on the effectiveness of aid interventions to strengthen collective action that facilitate women’s political empowerment. Overall, the effectiveness of each common strand and each type of intervention is uneven and mixed. Effects have ranged from negative to neutral to positive, although they seem positive overall. Sustaining positive effects is often a challenge. At a general level, combining several types of interventions is more effective than carrying out single interventions. Beyond this, evidence offers hardly any comparative rankings on which types of interventions have been more effective. The effects of interventions seem to be highly dependent on two aspects: internally, on the quality of programming; externally, on the political savvy of the supported partners involved in collective action, and on the wider political, economic, social, and cultural conditions. Indeed, all frequent types of intervention can be effective if designed, implemented, and combined well, and if enabled by favourable external variables. Effective aid depends on deeply knowing the political, economic, social, and cultural context, and adapting any lessons from other settings to it. Better understanding the links between collective action and State response is also important. When choosing which initiatives and partners to work with, effective aid actors base their work on local empowerment dynamics, work with locally anchored, representative actors, and account for their own position in the country’s political economy. They work with diverse partners over the long term, through collaborative relationships. Effective aid actors support multi-dimensional interventions aiming to advance women’s empowerment simultaneously in the personal, social, and political spheres, and to do so at different levels (e.g. local and national). The strategies chosen must address specific barriers to WPE in sequences of successive priorities. In addition, supporting collective action requires a longer-term, more adaptive approach focused on the process, compared to typical approaches in aid projects. Work needs to go beyond 3-5 years, to focus on problem-solving and local strengths, and to design for multiplier effects (e.g. between economic and political empowerment). It needs to encourage inclusion, collaboration, democracy, and transparency within partners’ collective organisation. In ‘fragile or conflict-affected States’ (FCAS), aid actors can effectively support women’s collective participation in peace processes, political negotiations, and institution-building. Outside interventions, a number of factors and conditions affect effectiveness, but evidence is scarce on general lessons. The main barrier lies with entrenched gender norms detrimental to women and girls. Other barriers include a lack of democratic space, and dominant social conservatism and backlash. Conversely, there are a number of positive factors and conditions. In all of these, women activists’ ability to work in politically savvy ways is crucial.
CitationCombaz, É. (2018). Effectiveness of aid interventions to strengthen collective action that facilitate women’s political empowerment – Narrative review. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies
Is part of seriesK4D Helpdesk Report;427
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