Women Empowerment Practices


Women constitute one half of the world's population and a visible majority of the poor. Women either solely or largely support an increasing number of families. Projects aiming to improve the living conditions of the poor cannot, therefore, be effective unless women participate in their formulation and implementation, as contributors as well as beneficiaries.

Although women are the main providers of basic services in poor settlements, their key role remains largely unrecognised. They are subject to special constraints in obtaining adequate housing and in participating in human settlement development efforts at all levels. Equitable distribution of development benefits is a fundamental principle, hence the need to remove these constraints.

The following briefs portray the importance of enhancing women's involvement at all levels of management, including policy-making and decision-making, focusing mainly on the implementation of the Habitat Agenda and Agenda 21 since Habitat II, with emphasis being given to the two main Habitat Agenda themes, "adequate shelter for all" and "sustainable human settlements development in an urbanising world".

The following important conclusions are drawn from the briefs:
• To empower women is to increase their control over the decisions that affect their lives both within and outside the household;
• Women should be encouraged to bring their vision and leadership, knowledge and skills, views and aspirations into the development agenda from the grassroots to international levels;
• Women should be assisted in conflict situations and their participation in peace processes supported;
• Emphasis should be given to advocacy of gender responsive legislation and constitutional revisions to increase women's opportunities to influence the direction of society and to remove obstacles to women's access to power;

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Water Provision in Malawi

In Malawi, a national programme to provide piped water to peri-urban communities was not meeting the needs of most families. The male-dominated water tap committees (80-90% of members were men) were not performing satisfactorily, mainly because the majority of the men were absent from the neighbourhoods during most of the day. Lack of participatory decision making involving women during the planning phase resulted in poor location, inconvenient design and subsequent wrong use of the water points. A training programme for women was introduced and succeeded in raising the percentage of women in tap committees from 20% to over 90%. Women gained self-confidence and became effective managers of the communal water points, including their operation and the maintenance.

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Union de Vecinos, Los Angeles, USA

When the City of Los Angeles threatened to demolish their homes in 1996, women from two of the poorest housing estates in Los Angeles organized Union de Vecinos. Union de Vecinos is both a tool and a place of transformation. It encourages and supports those women who are mobilizing their neighbors to take control of their livelihoods, and it offers them a space to tell their stories. As mothers, wives and workers, they have created a place where they can educate each other, build social and economic alternatives, become empowered to combat threats to their communities.

In its four years of existence, Union de Vecinos has been successful in expanding its impact to four other housing projects. It has trained 12 residents as community organizers. It is producing a bi-lingual newsletter for its Black and Latino constituency. It has given a voice to poor, immigrant women. And, most importantly, it has succeeded in imposing a moratorium on the demolition of low-income housing in Los Angeles.

Principal achievements:

- the initiative gave an effective voice to low-income immigrant women and encouraged them to take control of their own housing and neighborhoods;

- the initiative promotes social inclusion and the empowerment of poor women and their families, affording them leadership roles in a country of adoption;

- an array of local, national and international partnerships have been established further strengthening the sustainability of the Union?s activities;

- the initiative provides as well as an instrument for other low-income neighborhoods in other inner cities and in other countries where public authorities adopt demolition of housing estates as a quick and dirty fix to underlying problems of social exclusion and poverty;

- the initiative resulted in a change of policy of the city of Los Angeles

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Frauen-Werk-Stadt - A Housing Project by and for Women in Vienna, Austria

In the tradition of European urban development it was almost exclusively men who designed and constructed cities be they planners, architects, building owners and contractors. In this way, the everyday experience of working men was almost invariably the only source of expression in the design and structure of cities.

Women make up 52% of the Viennese population, yet up to now their role in everyday life was largely ignored. The housing project "Frauen-Werk-Stadt", started in 1993, is a first step to implement the everyday experience and requirements of women in the development of the city. In this regard a section of the city is being designed exclusively by women architects and planners as part of the urban expansion programme in Vienna.

Special attention was given to the flat layouts and space allocation for individual rooms. The intention is to have a number of even sized rooms, which do not force tenants to adopt pre-determined space utilisation. 359 housing units were constructed in in form of subsidized, multi-storey development. The housing project has several infrastructural facilitiesincluding a kindergarten and a day-care nursery, a doctor's office, a communication center, a police station and 600 sq. m for shops.

An increasing number of female experts are constantly being invited to attend urban planning evaluations and several have been able to prove there competencies. Before the inception of the "Frauen-Werk-Stadt", only a handful women took part in such evaluations.

Contact person: Eva Kail
E-mail: kae-d02@mbd.magwien.gv.at
Fax: +43/1/4000-99-82661

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Mother Centre International Network / AG International, Germany

The Mother Centres International Network is the result of a grassroots women's movement that started in Germany as a consequence of a research project at the German Youth Institute in Munich. Following the economic transition and war that was occuring in many countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the role of civil society has been systematically dismantled and family and neighbourhood networks destroyed. Unemployment, war trauma and unprecedented poverty often led to disorientation and retreat into depression and apathy.

Mother centres were created to address the needs of women and children and recreate family and neighbourhood structures in the community where modernisation in the West and totalitarian systems and war in the East have destroyed them. They empower mothers and create new channels for female participation and leadership in communities and local governance. They are an innovative model on how to strengthen civil society and democracy by revitalising neighbourhoods and community culture. They are melting pots in the community for women of diverse class and ethnic backgrounds to meet and join forces to deal with everyday life issues, to create community services and to rechannel resources to the grassroots level. Mother centres are consulted regularly by municipal agencies as well as by local, regional and national governments. They advocate on gender and family issues and have had impact on national legislation and urban planning .

The first three model Mother Centres were funded by the German Government Department for Family Affairs. Following the transition in Central and Eastern Europe Mother Centres were created from the bottom up as self help initiatives in the Czech and Slovac Republics, in Bulgaria, Russia, Georgia and Bosnia Herzegovina. There are now some 700-mother centres world wide, including Africa and North America. The centres operate as a switchboard for information, skills, support and resources for every day life and survival issues. Depending on their size and how long they have been working, mother centres reach between 50 and 500 families in their neighbourhood and have proven to be successful with training and job re-entry programmes as well as creating new businesses and income generating opportunities.

This practice demonstrates the importance of gender issues for the Habitat Agenda and that gender concerns are conditional elements in the strengthening of communities and neighbourhoods that in turn is necessary in improving the quality of the living environment.

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Women's Community Environmental Report Cards, Netherlands

By way of the Women's Community environmental report cards women are being encouraged to review their living environment and exert influence in promoting a sustainable development. Based on the international format of the Environmental Report Cards, a Dutch questionnaire was developed.

This project makes women more conscious of their role as consumers and citizens. Women's organizations gain experience in formulating women's interests and in getting public support for them. Policy-makers learn to take women's interests into consideration. During the experimental year 1995 twenty local groups in four Dutch provinces were involved, supported by local organizations and the National Steering Group. The number has since grown and environmental report cards currently serve as a barometer in assessing the effect of various multi-sectoral management and remedial actions.

Contact: Institute for Public and Politics (IPP)
Tel: 020-4201144

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Social and Financial Empowerment of Poor Women in Chennai, India

Chennai (formerly Madras) is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. A coastal metropolis, Chennai has a population of 4.2 million people (sex ratio of 951 females to 1,000 males ) and an area 174 square kilometres. In 1977, floods and other natural disasters had terrible effects on the poorest of the Chennai, especially women. The Working Women Forum (WWF) an NGO was founded in 1978 to respond to needs of heavily indebted women, whose labor was cheap and disposable as they were not organized. Low cost and accessible credit was identified for effective relief from poverty, hunger, indebtedness and strengthening their productive role.

Initially, WWF acted as an intermediary between national banks and its members to facilitate their access to credit. Frustrated with the formal banking system which did not address their needs, 2500 members of WWF, with the help of external donors, created the Working Women?s Cooperative Society (WWCS) in 1981. The most important challenge was to identify and train a cadre of catalysts within each neighborhood. It was also difficult to convince men that the program should focus only on women. By 1982-83, however, group leaders managed to take control and the program rapidly grew into a mass socio-economic movement. As it evolved into an emancipation movement for poor women with various partners joining the initiative including the Government of India and UNFPA. Out of an initial seed capital of Rs. 50,000, WWF has grown into the largest credit cooperative network with a recovery rate of 97% and a cumulative disbursement of 396 million Rupees. (Equivalent of US$ 8.8 million).

Many members have moved from trading and vending occupations to skilled and manufacturing business. 76 percent have been relieved from their indebtedness, 92 per cent are now able to afford two meals a day while 80 per cent have improved their housing. By raising awareness on health issues WWF has also created a voice and a demand for improved delivery of health services. WWF/ICNW (Credit institution of WWF) is 80% operationally self-sufficient and 75% financially self-sufficient.

Contact person: Dr. Jaya Arunachalam
Fax: 91-44-4992853
E-mail: wwforum@md2.vsnl.net.in

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Women?s Empowerment Program, Nepal

Seventy percent of Nepali families are below poverty line. Male dominated cultural traditions discourage female education, restrict their legal rights and participation in decision-making, and permit women little control over their lives. Females are often malnourished or in poor health. Only 20% of them are literate. Women?s Empowerment Program (WEP) initiated in 1998 was founded on the principle that dependency is not empowering. It works to empower women through an innovative program integrating literacy, micro-finance and micro-enterprise training and an understanding of legal rights and advocacy.

WEP however offers no seed money, matching grants or subsidised interest rates. Women must own the program by creating their own group policies, paying fees, buying books, providing facilities and supplies, and finding literacy volunteers. WEP assumes that the poor will pay for the services they need. It requires all members to be literate, understand the banking process and know how to form and operate a business. As a result, women in-kind contributions are estimated at $260,000 so far. 240 NGOs work as partners for implementation. WEP also encourages financial independence and for every ten WEP group they work with, the NGO receives less than $5 for administration. As a result, in-kind contributions from supporting NGOs are estimated at $100,000 to date. The program uses an approach based on Appreciative Planning and Action (APA) that was developed in Nepal and encourages women to build on their strengths and has been key to overcoming obstacles. This approach teaches an organization to learn and implement a major program in a transparent and accountable manner, to adopt low-cost methods to promote literacy and economic participation in order to reduce dependence on external funding: In summary, the program instils a sense of self-reliance.

Overall, the program shows that women can teach themselves the skills they need to improve their lives, to save money and start small businesses. Programs based on this model can engage millions of women everywhere at costs they can afford. The no handout policy inspires motivation, pride and commitment in a program integrating literacy, economic and legal components. Simplified books developed by partner NGOs enable newly literate women to teach each other basic skills. Within a few months they start putting them to use in ways to ensure skill retention. The Program reaches 123,000 women in nearly 7,000 economic groups in Southern Nepal.

Dr. Marcia L. Odell, Pact/Nepal, Country Representative

Tel: 977.1.429483 or 437996
Fax: 977.1.415613
Email: modell@pactnepal.org.np

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Integrating a Gender Perspective into Public Transit, Montreal, CANADA

The city of Montreal's population is a little above 1 million, the population of the island of Montreal is about 1.8 million and the population in the greater Montreal region is around 3.3 million. Fear of violence reduces night use of public transportation by women. Yet, a simple change of practice can drastically improve their mobility - "Between Two Stops" service, which allows women to get off the bus, at night, at a location closer to their destination. Since 1992, the Comité d?Action Femmes et Securité Urbaine (CAFSU) has been actively promoting ways to increase women?s sense of security in and access to the urban environment. Because women are the principal users of public transportation, this program generates an increase in ridership as well as more security for all other users. Partnership of CAFSU with public authorities was key to the project?s success. Beyond allowing for increased mobility, "Between Two Stops" service also confirmed that local authorities can make concrete contributions to support women toward autonomy and equality, when they recognize women as the main recipients of their services. The project stated in 1996 and has since been replicated in the Montreal, Toronto and Laval municipalities across Canada.

The programme managed to establish strategic partnerships between local authorities, women?s organisations and girls and women utilising public transportation. Success was achieved by recognising the specific needs of women in the overall allocation of public resources and creating a low-cost strategic policy that transformed the economic and social lives of women. The service is also the subject of growing interest in other Quebec municipalities. The networks of women's groups involved in local and regional development help to publicise the service as well. On an international scale, the service is also being promoted through the "Women in City" programme as part of its international activities. It also serves as an example of a successful strategic partnership between women's groups and local authorities, particularly in the context of the United Nations' Habitat agenda implementation process.

Anne Michaud
Tel: 514-396-3521
Fax: 514-280-3230
Email: cafsu@qc.aira.com

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Community Recycling of Domestic Waste by Women, Dakar, Senegal

The Set-Setal settlement in Dakar, Senegal, has a population of 45,000. Before the initiative began, the Municipal services could only collect 35% of the 263 cubic metres of waste produced per day, while 51% of households had no toilet facilities and 76% had no convenient systems to process used waste-water which was consequently poured onto the streets. Unemployment rate for men was 28.6% and 24.1% for women. The settlement had a prevalence of infectious diseases such as typhoid and malaria. Women in the community embarked on a waste management programme.

The results of their efforts include:

- a regular collection of the waste, and eradication of anarchic dumps thus improving the sanitary and health status of the beneficiaries;

- generation of income from supplementary activities like waste collection, sale of compost, vegetables and recycled plastic objects;

- covering the recurrent costs with the financial contribution of the member households. Additional financial sources include a well managed revolving funds scheme, saving banks and credit totally managed by women leading to better co-ordination amongst the different parties and a greater trust in women from the quarters. The projects translated into municipal savings as the latter did not incur any expenses related to waste management;

- reinforcement of the managerial capacities and strategic approach of the women through training and exchange visits that allow them to manage the initiative at all levels;

- alleviation of the family charges through the employment of jobless youth mostly from female headed households;

- Transference of the project to other parts of the country and visits by the Association of elected Women of Burkina Faso (AFEB). The project was disseminated during the USAID International Seminar on the Study of Impact on the Environment, etc.

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Women's Contribution in Sustainable Rural Development, Deir El Ahmar, Lebanon

Lebanon is located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria covering 10,400 square kilometres. Deir El Ahmar, with a population of 550,00, is part of the Bekaa valley. People in this area face myriad economic hardships where per capita income is US$ 50 per month and the immigration level is very high. In 1991, a group of women voluntarily got together to establish an NGO (WADA) aiming at sustainable rural development, through economic, financial and political empowerment. The objectives of the NGO included building the capacity of rural women to launch awareness programmes in environmental management, healthcare and eco-tourism. The municipality provided them with 1.5 hectares of fertile land.

WADA has accomplished about 70% of its objectives for the "Rural Development Center", which includes playgrounds, theatres, day-care center, capacity training and production center for women, multi-purpose hall, and a local library. The programmes have gone a long way in building women's capacity to respond to day-to-day challenges. Agro-food products were cultivated and handcraft business started. Their products are sold locally as well as exported (total sales in 2001 were US$ 50,000). Educational and training programmes have been conducted for women in the areas of health care, environment protection and tourism promotion.

WADA collaborated with organizations representing various sectors of the community to help solve pressing problems. The NGO works with Creative Associates (USAID), Union Cities, CBOs, school representatives and the municipality. WADA is also a member of the '' Lebanese Women's Council'' whose basic principle is to advocate gender equality and raise legal awareness on women's rights.

This Lebanese initiative is a flagship, where women get together voluntarily to promote sustainable rural development by focusing on economic, social and political empowerment. WADA has greatly and effectively contributed to the "after 20 years of armed conflict programme" and they have formed partnerships involving local authorities, civil society, private sector and international organizations.

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Community-based Women-oriented initiative to fight poverty, Kerala, India

Kerala is a small state, tucked away in the southwest corner of India. It represents only 1.18% of the total area of India and has a population of 31 million. A quarter of the population resides in urban centres with a 91% overall literacy rate. Initially, manifestations of poverty were visible in varying intensity in all the 58 urban local bodies of Kerala, despite implementation of several poverty reduction programmes by the Government, owing to the 'top-down' planning approach adopted. The Community Development Societies' (CDS) structure flourishing in the state of Kerala, India is an innovative community-based, women-oriented initiative to fight poverty. All urban-based poverty reduction programmes are now implemented through a tripartite Community Based Organisations' (CBOs) structure. This unique and innovative system that evolved as a result of decentralised planning has already gained international recognition as a highly effective participatory system to do away with the manifestations of urban poverty.

The urban CDS system of Kerala offers poor urban women an open forum to express their anguish, anxieties, aspirations, developmental needs and priorities. After identifying and prioritizing these developmental needs, the poor women formulate and implement poverty reduction action plans. Identification and analysis of poverty instances using 'non-economic risk indices', economic and social empowerment of poor women and their families through promotion of micro-enterprises, education and cultural vitality get priority in the CDS structure, derived from the Kudumbashree Mission (the State Poverty Eradication Mission).

Within a short span of three years, Kudumbashree Mission has brought about a sea change in the lives of the urban poor of Kerala by converging resources, ideas and programmes of various departments through the CDS system. 169,000 poor urban women of the State have been organized into 7,848 grassroot level self-help groups. Among other laudable achievements include mobilization of savings and informal banking which has resulted in the disbursement of US$ 1.18 million among members with a 100% repayment rate. The CDS structure has hitherto given birth to 12,991 vibrant micro enterprises, with 20,000 women owners. The urban CDSs of Kerala run remedial education centres to help out poor students in preparation for public examinations. Remedial Education Centres of the CDS structure act as 'double-edged swords' to fight poverty as they not only enhance the educational standard of the students belonging to families but also give gainful employment to educated poor women. Community Based Organisations have mobilised their members and partners to construct 21,987 houses and 20,049 toilets for the urban poor.

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Community Watch Against Domestic and Gender Violence, Cebu City, Philippines

Cebu City, covering an area of 329 square kilometres, has population of 610,417. It is the regional capital of Central Visayas and lies at the heart of the Philippine archipelago, 568 kilometres south of Manila. The city has a literacy rate of 97 percent, however, illiteracy rates among females (3.4 percent) are higher compared to males' (2.8 percent). The Bantay Banay concept or "Family/Community Watch Group Against Domestic and Gender Violence" was conceived in January 31, 1992 in Cebu City by participants to a Forum where it was revealed that 60 % of the women were battered by their spouses. The initial approach was to involve the community members in order to respond and reduce cases of domestic violence. The group members, who include lawyers, regularly met to share experiences and review their objectives and activities. Victims who later become members are afforded temporary shelter, food, medical care and legal assistance. Community members receive training on gender issues, applicable laws and legal process, crisis intervention and mediation and are involved in networking and advocacy with government agencies, administration, sponsors and policy makers has been instrumental in ensuring success of the programme. A survey on domestic violence was conducted and results presented to an interagency council for urban basic services (UNICEF sponsored). Members of the council created a task force that was later named Bantay Banay. The task force negotiated with the city hospital for free laboratory services to victims during medico-legal check up. The group approached the mayor for funds to train police personnel on gender sensitivity while the City Health Department was involved in training women on health issues.

Intervention programmes include isolating victims from abusive environment, affording them medical legal and economic support to get ban on their feet. The Bantay Banay programme has been replicated in 60 cities and municipalities throughout the Philippines. Many of the member groups were financially sponsored to build their capacity to respond to such cases. Direct response to victims is the responsibility of these partner agencies. In Cebu city alone, 50 out of 80 barangays (wards) have their own Bantay Banay volunteers who respond to cases and refer them to appropriate authorities. The Bantay Banay council has succeeded in lobbying for retention of the Gender Development Budget allocation by the municipality. The group has also been instrumental in lobbying for enactment/revision of the anti-rape law, sexual harassment law and pro-women laws.

The overall group activities currently involve 1,500 community volunteers in Cebu City and Bantay Banay. On average 2,000 cases are handled annually by the groups network. Women's rights as human rights are recognized and a 'Gender and Development code' has been passed providing for protection of women victims of violence in the Philippines. The most important lessons from this program are that good governance results from the interplay of the many actors.

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Launch and Development of Cordoba, Spain

Prior to 1999, an Equality Plan implemented by the Provincial Women's Centre in Cordoba was not inclusive in nature and did not have the intended impact. With the transfer of some of the staff and responsibilities to the Cordoba's Women's Institute under the auspices of the Andalusian Regional Government, the remaining duties were taken up by the Department of Women of the Cordoba Provincial Council.

The Gender Committee developed the first inclusive gender plan "Equal Opportunities Plan" 2000-2003. The aim of the plan was to create employment opportunities and mutual support networks to foster exchange of experiences related to gender mainstreaming and equal opportunities for women and men. Active lobbying was done to keep politicians and technical staff of all departments informed on the development of the action plan and related activities. The strategy that was applied was to prioritise gender training among the staff of institutions linked to the Provincial Council. The Gender Plan was adopted by the provincial administration in Cordoba, which prevailed on all other departments to make financial contributions every year and appoint one staff member to sit on the Gender Committee.

In March 2000, a sensitization campaign dubbed "Route for Equality" was organised to build awareness on the Equal Opportunities Plan and to provide community members an opportunity to make comments and as a result 75 specific action plans were drawn up. A training programme for unemployed women was initiated to enhance their chances of securing job opportunities. 45 women have so far benefited from this scheme which came complete with free transportation to attend training courses and childcare for their children while they were in class.

This initiative successfully incorporated the gender perspective into provincial and local Agenda 21 environment programmes in the province of Cordoba. The Plan has been successful in incorporating a fixed gender clause when drafting all agreements to be signed by the Provincial Council with public and private organisations. A vast number of organisations have been involved in the project and include 75 municipal councils in the Province of Cordoba, the Provincial Economic Development Consortium, various women's associations, financial institutions and the private sector.

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Gender and Citizenship within an Integrated Programme for Social Inclusion, Santo Andre, Brazil

Santo Andre, a city with a population of 625,654, is part of the Sao Paulo Metropolitan Area, one of the largest mega-cities of the Region. Developed as a centre for industrial production some 30 years ago, Santo Andre has been dealing with a large crisis, generated by the crash and substitution of its original economic model. As a result, during the last decade, the living conditions for the majority of the population have deteriorated and a number of favelas, areas of extreme poverty, have sprung up in the city. The municipality is promoting an Integrated Programme of Social Inclusion as a strategy to alleviate poverty. The Integrated Program of Social Inclusion, which is a pilot program, has as its purpose the establishment of new ways of managing local public policies addressing social inclusion. The programme addresses decentralisation and participatory management and is comprised of projects spearheaded by the Municipal Administration. Four priority groups were chosen to develop the Integrated Program (PIIS) as a pilot project. The four-slums are: Sacadura Cabral, Tamarutaca, Capuava, and Quilombo II. Their resident population is 16,042 (50.72% male and 49.28% female) with half the population being unemployed/underemployed. 57.6% of the households are female-headed many of who earn less than 1/2 the minimum wage.

These areas were characterised by poor infrastructure, lack of access to basic services, and exposure of children and adolescents to crime. The objective of the initiative is to integrate community participation in the local management actions of social policies, giving the slum population an opportunity to develop social inclusion strategies through integrated actions. Both the partner organizations and community agents participate directly in the PIIS management tiers. In the case of urbanisation, for example, the entire process is decided step by step, with the residents of these low-income neighborhoods, collectively determining issues ranging from project schedules to naming of streets. The emergence and strengthening of community leaders has been demonstrated by greater participation by these communities in the city's debate and decision-making forums, highlighting that the choices made by the community representatives have taken the gender perspective into account. The project has seen the improvement of basic services in some of the worst regions in the area. Micro-credit facilities have been made available to small-scale entrepreneurs while health care is more accessible from community health agents appointed to provide medical attention within neighbourhoods. Recreational facilities have also been made available while open spaces have been designated as playing grounds. An index that is used to measure social exclusion/social inclusion has been elaborated and data collection is done on a regular basis.

The Gender and Citizenship Program proposes to foster male/female awareness by promoting institutional arrangements that help reduce conflicts, working simultaneously with the community and program teams. The Gender and Citizenship Program resulted in strengthening of women's roles in decision-making processes and family relations in the community and the city. The Gender and Citizenship Program is the result of a partnership between the Santo Andre Municipality and the Center for Health Studies (CES). A total of 112 discussion groups, gender awareness courses, and campaigns geared towards combating violence against women have been held, involving approximately six thousand people. Progress has also been made in other areas including property rights on the lots and housing units being transferred to female-headed households, and improved reproductive healthcare. Community-based agents represent about 50% of all the individuals involved in implementing the Program. This is a positive strategy, since in addition to generating employment and income for local residents, especially women, it provides a close link between the programs and the communities' real needs. The Integrated Program for Social Inclusion has directly benefited 3,600 families, improving their quality of life and access to social policies, work, and income, especially in achieving their rights as citizens. At the management level, the Program's greatest triumph has been its intra- and inter-institutional integration, contributing to the operational consolidation and collaboration of the respective work teams, thereby expanding each program's efficacy.

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Paper Recycling Project (PRP), Cairo, Egypt

The Association for the Protection of the Environment (A.P.E.) is an NGO, situated in the Mokattam area of Cairo, Egypt. Its aim is to protect the environment and improve the livelihood of the garbage collectors or "Zabbaleen" communities. All workers are young women from the community. They were illiterate, suffered from malnutrition, anaemia, skin diseases etc. They rarely left their homes and hardly ever left the community where they were considered "second class" citizens.

To empower the young mothers there was a need to implement sustainable income generating project. The project was inspired by the World YWCA workshop on "Waste Recycling". The project aims to improve the standard of living of the female garbage collectors and their families through a comprehensive educational, economic, and socio-cultural approach program of activities. The project uses a step- by- step approach aimed at empowering girls and young women to become agents of change in their communities in an interactive process involving the girls, field workers, volunteers and consultants. The project that begun with virtually no budget and no equipment is now a viable, financially sustainable project. The project currently has annual revenues of close to US$ 110,000 per year and is able to sustain itself indefinitely without the infusion of external grants. Besides the educational benefits of the project, its economic benefits include income generation for nearly 90 young women at levels that are nearly 70 percent higher than what they would earn in much less desirable employment sorting recyclable materials from waste. Social gains range from improved networks, health provision and general empowerment of participating women in community leadership.

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Buses For Women Only In Bangkok

In May 2000, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), a state-run bus operator in the Thai capital, began service for what was dubbed 'The Lady Bus'. The initiative came in response to numerous complaints by women about safety. Women, reacting to sexual harassment and crimes while commuting, had been demanding a safer travel option during rush hours. The Lady Bus accepts only women as passengers, except for accompanying sons aged less than 15 years. Bus drivers and fare collectors on the Lady Bus will be male because the BMTA wants them to protect passengers in case of emergencies.

The Lady Bus runs as every third bus on ten routes on the 30th, 31st and 1st of each month, between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. BMTA chose the evening and night trips during salary payment dates for introductory services because these are the riskiest times for women passengers to become crime victims. The ten introductory routes run past crowded business centres in the Thai capital, including Victory Monument, Maboonklong and Siam Centre. The number of routes and frequency of service will be increased if the BMTA finds that the project works.

Source: Japan Economic Newswire; Kyodo News Service, 30 May2000. (Global Report on Human Settlement 2001.)

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Poverty reduction among women through vocational training and micro- financing programme, Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, with a population of 25 million and a GNI per capita of US $310 (World Bank, 2002), 27.5% of the population lives below the poverty line and 70% of the poor are in rural areas. Women are concentrated in the lower paying sectors and earn about 70 % compared to males. The level of female unemployment is higher than that of the males (62%). The low level of self-employment is caused by lack of necessary skills and knowledge, limited access to credit for women and low participation in establishment of new enterprises.

To improve the situation, the Business Women Association (BWA) launched an integrated program on poverty reduction among women, focusing on vocational training and micro finance in rural areas of Uzbekistan. The purpose of this initiative is to contribute to the poverty reduction, through empowerment of women and local economic development, assistance in the improvement of the living conditions of women, especially of those living in rural areas, and providing equal access to job and income generation opportunities.

The initiative has contributed positively on the economic situation of the country and has raised women’s economic role and status by overcoming gender barriers. It has provided women with equal access to financial sources through micro credit lending programmes, small and medium entrepreneurship, job creation, institutionalization, normalization and registration of businesswomen. It has also given an opportunity for the capacity building of both BWA employees (thus contributing to Business Women’s Association of Uzbekistan BWA’s institutional development) and entrepreneurs through training on various economic issues.

7,300 unemployed women attended vocational training courses and this initiative enabled them to acquire the necessary skills to become financially independent and/or to become businesswomen. This initiative was also able to advocate for a law that was approved by the parliament. With the aim of providing favourable legislative conditions for the activity of micro finance institutions, the BWA team lobbied for a decree on micro financing "measures on development of micro financing activity", which was adopted by Cabinet of Ministers on August, 20, 2002.

BWA constantly maintains business contacts with other women’s organizations of Central Asia and promotes the exchange of knowledge and experience. The results of this initiative have proved to be sustainable, and BWA of Uzbekistan is actively engaged in replicating similar activities in Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Tajik.

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São Paulo Social Inclusion Strategy, Brazil

São Paulo is the largest city in South America, and the third largest in the world. Its population has doubled in the past 30 years, and has now reached about 18 million people. Forty percent of Brazil's GDP (US$ 536 billion) is produced by the city. The dimension of income inequality and social exclusion in the city of São Paulo reflects the size of this metropolis. Its urban space, as the generating center of the country’s wealth, is beginning to show more evidence of the impact of last decades’ stagnation in national economy. This is in addition to the uneven concentration of growth that characterises the historical evolution of Brazilian economy.

Overcoming this situation seemed impossible towards the end of 2000, especially taking into account the dilapidated state machinery and heavy public debt inherited by the present municipal administration. Nevertheless, work that opened new horizons was started. Human, material, and financial resources were mobilized, revealing a strategy of social inclusion and a set of basic principles to guide the government intervention.

A policy to combat urban poverty was formulated based on a decentralized structure, which targeted areas with high incidences of social exclusion. Participation of the civil society, and integration of efforts among the various spheres of public administration were also key to the policy’s success.

With a policy framework in place, it was possible to match available resources with empowerment projects. Dignity and citizenship were the goals of the process. A strategy that gave priority to the direct transfer of resources (and rights) to the poor in needy regions of the city was adopted. In addition, a set of related policies was established – vocational training, participation in community activities, access to micro-credit, formation of cooperatives and popular participation, creation of local development forums, and employment bureau to match supply and demand of job opportunities – for segments that had been forgotten by the state.

These policies have benefited 320,000 families, 12% of the population in the municipality, in a period of 3 years after their implementation. Approximately 80 % of the families are women while 32 % are female-headed household. Other tangible results include qualification of 110,000 people from the municipality’s training programme, formation of over 440 enterprises; elaboration of production activities within the local context, with the participation of employers representatives, trade unions, and the civil society. An employment network, involving 54 partner institutions and 15 job placement agencies was established to match newly acquired skills with appropriate job.

Finally the creation of a database and usage of computer solutions (Citizen Database - BDC) enabled access to timely and updated information on the target group and status of current intervention strategies. This also serves as a monitoring and evaluation tool to provide feedback about the whole process.

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