Four women discuss their roles in development

By Creative Associates International

March 7, 2014

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Creative Associates International is inspired by the women it partners with and their commitment to establishing better communities. As part of International Women’s Day, Creative asked a group of its field staff members to discuss the role of women in their projects, as well as their personal experiences working in international development programs.

Below is a selection of the answers.

Honduras

Working in Honduras’s most violent neighborhoods, Creative is implementing a USAID-funded initiative that seeks to reduce homicide and other crime rates. Called CONVIVE!, it builds alliances between communities and government institutions, as well as using disruptive behavior techniques and other methods to drive down the epidemic rates.

Noy Villalobos, Chief of Party, CONVIVE!, describes how women are engaged in the effort.

“Simply put, our program would fail without women. Women in the communities we serve are the glue that binds them. The program is promoting the adoption of non-traditional roles for women and emboldening them to become decision-makers. [They] are at the vanguard in combating violence at the local level. Our program recognizes their immense potential, talent and resourcefulness to serve as community mobilizers and build the relationships with government institutions to benefit their development and safety. They are restoring communities’ sense of normalcy, pride and dignity.”

Zambia

Zambia has the lowest achievement scores among the 15 countries in Southern Africa Development Community. Creative’s Read to Succeed project strives to improve student performance in the public school system with a specific focus on early grade reading. Funded by USAID, Read to Succeed is improving student performance by providing teacher training and policy support in 1,300 government basic schools in six provinces.

Audrey Mwansa, Deputy Chief of Party, Read to Succeed, discusses how she is working to improve the lives of girls by giving them a second chance at an education.

“As a female educator, I have contributed to the change in the lives of girls through advocating for policies (such as the re-entry policy for school girls to go back to school after giving birth). Through this policy, girls who would have otherwise completely dropped out of school after giving birth have now been given a second chance to complete their education. I have seen girls who once dropped out of school due to pregnancy and came back due to the policy excel in their education – some of them have even completed university degrees.”

Morocco

From 300,000 to 400,000 youth dropout of school each year in Morocco, with a large segment unable to find work.

In cooperation with Ministry of Education efforts to keep children in classrooms, the USAID-supported Improving Training for Quality Advancement in National Education program is working to prevent middle school dropouts, improve teachers’ pedagogical approach and develop practical teacher training materials for nationwide use.

Fatima Zahra Tahiri, Communications Officer, Improving Training for Quality Advancement in National Education, discusses how a woman works to achieve change in a male-dominated society.

“This is my story…working in a country where men’s voice is premium is not easy at all.  But, looking at the eyes of those little girls going every morning to the school to learn, thinking of them that they could be some day very important decision makers, that makes me work even harder.  In order to achieve this result, the shortest way would be through education. Teach the little boy how to respect those around him, including women. If we start this in preschool and we go on, once at 18, the boy will have no problem working with his peers, regardless of gender.”

Afghanistan

One sector that is vital to Afghanistan’s future—a professionally trained labor force—is quietly getting a much needed boost. Creative’s Afghanistan Workforce Development Program seeks to increase job placements and wages for 25,000 Afghans through access to quality of technical and business training, as well as job placement support services.

The project, which exceeded its goal of training at least 25 percent women, reached 34 percent in its first phase. It is funded by USAID.

Zahra Khawari, Grant Activity Manager, Afghanistan Workforce Development Program, discusses how the project has affected her and other women.

“For me to see Afghan women working in professional careers, this has meant a lot to me. It means through the project, we are providing opportunities for women and we are empowering them to take control of their economic security. I have come to know that Afghan women need a big movement to break tradition and enhance their values. For me, it is a matter of breaking deep-rooted gender discrimination in my male-dominated society. For me, my work means a lot, both for myself and for many of women in my society, it gives me the inspiration to move forward and continue.”

To read more comments from the field, please visit www.CreativeAssociatesInternational.com

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