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Local Governance

We Empower Grassroots Women in Decision-Making Processes

Global institutions acknowledge grassroots women as essential partners in development, and yet, they are too often seen as clients and passive beneficiaries of public services. The Huairou Commission works to reverse this assumption by empowering women to act as full partners in service delivery and leaders in governance processes.

We Work With Grassroots Women to Use Their Practical Knowledge to Inform Effective Policy

Grassroots women use their practical knowledge of family and community to contribute to policies and programs that are both realistic and effective. However, while the current global political climate presents unprecedented opportunities for bringing women’s voices into decision-making processes, many institutions and governments remain closed to the formal inclusion of grassroots women. Through the Huairou Commission’s Governance work, grassroots women are deepening democratic practice at the local, national and international levels by organizing community priorities and concerns, monitoring local initiatives, discouraging corruption, collaborating and partnering with local authorities and introducing their own development solutions.

We Connect Women with Authorities and Put Them in Crucial Decision-Making Spaces

Our thematic work in Governance focuses on building the capacity of women’s groups to participate in and influence decision-making at different levels of government. By creating learning platforms and resources to exchange experiences, grassroots women learn how to negotiate with authorities and prepare for holding public leadership positions themselves. Bridging the gap between grassroots women and authorities in this way helps to sustain women in leadership, increase government accountability and create platforms for communities to set policy and resource priorities.

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We Support Grassroots Women to Create Effective Solutions to Problems Facing Their Communities

Promoting Transparent and Accountable Governance
The grassroots women’s approach to anti-corruption is collective, beyond confrontation and rooted in improving governance and transforming power dynamics. It is grounded in grassroots women’s understanding of corruption, which is broader than the standard definition: ‘a misuse of entrusted power for private gain.’ Grassroots women and youth experience corruption more intensely than other social groups as a wide range of exploitative practices — such as physical abuse, sexual favors and the giving and taking of bribes. These practices are strongly linked to the non-delivery of public services and poor leadership, and grassroots women view the non-delivery of services as a cause, consequence and intrinsic component of corrupt practices. When grassroots women organize to design and implement anti-corruption strategies, they build gender-sensitive governance that leads to improved service delivery, increased access to justice and decreased levels of corruption and poverty. However, grassroots groups have faced numerous challenges, even violent backlash, in specifically directing their work towards fighting corruption. For many, corruption is socially embedded and part of a larger system of power dynamics and institutions that fail to recognize or institutionalize meaningful participation of women and communities. Grassroots women have begun to broaden their anti-corruption strategies to focus on structural change, where long-term success is defined by influencing institutions on a systemic level. A partnership with the UNDP Global Anti-corruption Initiative (GAIN) supported the creation of an evidence base of grassroots women’s experiences and perceptions of corruption and governance, and the piloting of innovative programming.

Promoting Safety and Security in Cities
Occupying public spaces is critical for women to organize, fully participate in their communities and enjoy opportunities that cities offer, such as employment and access to health and educational services. The Huairou Commission works to make cities safer for women by reclaiming public spaces, increasing women’s mobility and diminishing a culture of fear. The Huairou Commission has worked on safety issues since 2002, and has been involved in over 13 international conferences on women’s safety and violence against women. In addition to promoting safety audit trainings and cross-regional exchanges on grassroots women’s organizations’ best practices, the Huairou Commission also focuses on partnership building with authorities at local, regional and international levels, allowing grassroots women’s recommendations to be mainstreamed into safety policies and institutional accountability. On February 19, 2013, Huairou facilitated a Global Day of Action for Safer Cities and Communities, mobilizing grassroots women’s organizations in 58 cities to take concrete steps towards improving their public spaces.

Promoting Women’s Empowerment Through International Frameworks
In 2000, world leaders came together to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, a new commitment to reduce extreme poverty through a series of time-bound targets by 2015. The third of these Millennium Development Goals, “to promote gender equality and empower women,” cut across all other goals, recognizing that global poverty will not be eliminated without empowering women as leaders in development. The Dutch Foreign Ministry launched the MDG3 Accountability Initiative in 2009 to support Huairou Commission member groups to develop greater awareness around the MDGs, use the MDGs as a local and national advocacy tool and increase women’s participation in and influence over decision-making and securing assets, particularly land and housing. The success of the MDG3 Accountability Initiative served to inform the Huairou Commission’s model of women’s empowerment in governance: empowered women act as informed participants in development processes instead of recipients of government services. They are able to articulate their work from a position of strength and are recognized by their community and government authorities as social actors. This work has been a direct influence on the Huairou Commission’s engagement in subsequent international frameworks, particularly the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.