Gender and Citizenship at the Grassroots: Assessing the Effect of NGO Initiatives in Social Mobilization and Political Empowerment in Kenya and Bangladesh
Author: Simeen Mahmud and Celestine Nyamu Musembi
Size: 33 pages (248KB)
Can women's participation in associations and civil society initiatives reduce gender inequality? This study assesses the extent to which social mobilisation and political empowerment initiatives led by NGOs have influenced gender dynamics in Kenya and Bangladesh. It focuses on gender dynamics in everyday expression of citizenship at community level. It concludes that the NGO initiatives studied have played a role in placing women in both formal and informal spaces of leadership and visibility. However, the persistence of male social advantage in the more formalised spaces of community public life still needs to be challenged.
Dominant discourses on gender and citizenship have tended to focus on structural constraints on women's exercise of citizenship rights, as manifested in laws, policies and the design of public institutions. However, it is also important to look at the role of agency in the construction of citizenship – micro-level day-to-day expressions of citizenship and related gender dynamics, and the influence of NGO-led social mobilisation and political empowerment initiatives in cultivating agency.
The study found that women who had participated in social mobilisation and political empowerment initiatives displayed more active citizenship than women who had not. However, comparison with their male counterparts highlighted significant gains in some areas and persistent male advantage in others:
In conclusion, the intervention of civil associations does build and facilitate agency, which is crucial in overcoming social disadvantage. However, structural constraints can prove difficult to surmount:
Mahmud, S. and Musembi, C. N., 2011, ‘Gender and Citizenship at the Grassroots: Assessing the Effect of NGO Initiatives in Social Mobilization and Political Empowerment in Kenya and Bangladesh’, Citizenship, Participation and Accountability – Development Research Centre
Organisation: Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability, http://www.drc-citizenship.org/