GROOTS was formed in 1989 to center grassroots women’s groups in decision-making processes that affect their lives and their communities. Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood (GROOTS International) is a global network of women-led grassroots organizations, organizing to give voice and power to grassroots women’s visions and initiatives. Together, the organizations confront community development problems by exchanging knowledge and practices, setting priorities and advocating for change.
Grassroots women have always been responding to the needs of their communities, and women working to create change in their lives and their communities cultivate unique knowledge and skills in their work. GROOTS advances the knowledge of grassroots women and champions them as experts in order to influence policies and programs related to community development. Local groups, though the largest and most effective actors working towards community development, are often under-appreciated and underfunded. GROOTS counters this pattern by focusing on strengthening grassroots women’s participation in community development, supporting urban and rural grassroots women’s groups in sharing their successful practices, focusing international attentions on grassroots women’s needs and abilities, and increasing opportunities for grassroots women’s groups to network across countries.
The needs of poor women are not met by current development programs and approaches. Because of long standing patriarchal structures that guide and dominate decision-making, women and particularly poor women are seen as receivers of aid money and development strategies rather than active participants in community development. In direct contradiction, GROOTS works to recognize and value women’s knowledge and experiences and insert their voices into the planning, creation and implementation of development policies and programs.
Recognizing women’s skills and knowledge in community development, GROOTS utilizes methodologies that value that experience and develops strategies to bring grassroots women into decision making processes. Peer learning offers a unique opportunity for women to present their work as experts and collaborate on common goals. This methodology also promotes the creation of strategies by member organizations in preparation for global advocacy work.
GROOTS recognizes the power in collaborative women’s work and relationship building. Relationships within GROOTS are based on mutual support and a shared set of values and vision for the future. As a network, GROOTS utilizes the power of strong relationships and women working together to bring a collecting message on the needs of grassroots women to the global stage especially within the UN system.
The GROOTS programs were created to utilize the collective struggles of grassroots women worldwide to challenge the power structures that exclude grassroots women. GROOTS supports local leaders to link up and work together to demand recognition, inclusion, and funding from the local level all the way to the United Nations.
Connecting with other groups through being a part of a global network offers grassroots women an opportunity to learn and share information pertinent to their work. Women are also more able to influence policy surrounding the inclusion of poor rural and urban women in decision making processes when organized and are more likely to be heard in a global arena.
GROOTS also uses partnerships to advance the work of grassroots women. Key partnerships provide an opportunity to redefine relationships between grassroots women and professionals. In equitable and mutually supportive partnerships, grassroots women are valued for their expertise and leadership while partner are valued for their commitment to supporting community driven development. Partnerships can give voice to grassroots women and extend the reach of their message.
GROOTS see itself as a movement committed to long term change. The work of GROOTS not only addresses immediate needs of member organizations, its methodologies are meant to challenge existing power structures. Through utilization of these methods, GROOTS works to empower women and redefine the way international development is approached and how other engage with grassroots womens’ organizations.
Our Cooperation with HC Campaigns
GROOTS International is an active founding member of the Huairou Commission and has been pivotal in its continued development. GROOTS also serves as the host for the Secretariat of the Huairou Commission in its international headquarters in New York. All of the active grassroots and NGO member organizations in GROOTS also contribute actively to the work of HC through Campaigns and other global activities and events.
The efforts of the Huairou Commission AIDS Campaign are led by GROOTS members, particularly in the area of Home Based Care. As a response to the AIDS pandemic in their communities, many of the GROOTS groups in Africa began caring for neighbors and family members. Taking their networking and organizing to the next level, these women formed a regional Home Base Care Alliance in Africa, as an international platform to gain recognition of women’s grassroots work in the fight against AIDS and to direct international funding and support to women working on the ground. The Home Based Care Alliance is a GROOTS initiative that forms a key part of the AIDS Campaign. The members are leading the work being done by the AIDS Campaign and its partnership group, the Caregivers Action Network, to reframe global policy conversations about how to address HIV/AIDS. For more information on the AIDS Campaign and the grassroots response to the AIDS pandemic, see our AIDS Campaign page.
GROOTS also leads the Resilience Campaign for the Huairou Commission. Grassroots women are regularly responding to disasters, playing key roles in rebuilding after disasters and preparing communities to be more resilient to disasters and climate change. However, women are consistently left out of planning and monitoring resources coming in to their community after a disaster. GROOTS member organizations are working with the Resilience Campaign to strengthen the strategies of grassroots women to reduce community vulnerability. GROOTS established the Community Disaster Relief Fund (CDRF) to channel funds directly to community based organizations and women’s groups. Currently, a Community Platform is being created in partnership with UNISDR as a space for grassroots women to act as advisor and evaluators of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) that seeks to build more resilient communities. CDRF and the Community Platform are main initiatives of the Resilience Campaign for the Huairou Commission. For more information on grassroots women’s approaches to disaster resilience, see ourCommunity Resilience Campaign page.
Land & Housing and Governance
Many of the GROOTS members are actively participating in the Land and Housing Campaign and the Governance Campaign. GROOTS International members were instrumental in the piloting and replication of the Local to Local Dialogue, a process promoted by the HC Governance Campaign. GROOTS has also supported many of its members to carry out Local to Local Dialogues, further developing the process and contributing to its recognition as a tool for participatory local governance. To learn more about these campaigns, visit the Land & Housing Campaign page and the Governance Campaign page.
Developing Tools and Methodologies
GROOTS International has also been pivotal in the development of the Tools and Methods implemented and promoted by the Huairou Commission. The values of recognizing women’s knowledge and individual empowerment are expressed in these methods, particularly through the act of peer learning. During Peer Exchanges, women’s groups visit another group to exchange experience and reflect on their expertise in the field of development. Grassroots Academies are larger peer learning spaces that bring women from different communities, organizations, and countries to share their knowledge and experiences to develop policy recommendations. A Local to Local Dialogue is a process through which grassroots women meet with local authorities on issues that affect them the most to present their knowledge and advocate for policy changes. GROOTS members also implement the Leadership Support Process, a women’s empowerment methodology developed by the National Congress of Neighborhood Women in the United States, building leadership and combating oppression by developing strong relationships of mutual support among diverse women.
Since the establishment of GROOTS International, grassroots women have consistently occupied spaces at global conferences such as the World Urban Forum, the UN Commission on Status of Women, UNISDR Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, International and Regional AIDS Conferences, etc. Women are actively representing themselves and their communities because of the work of GROOTS and there are increasing opportunities for the voices of grassroots women to be included in the global arena.
Member organizations are engaged in mutually beneficial partnerships with donors and policy institutions (UN agencies, bilateral donors, INGOs, research and policy organizations and private donors). Grassroots women are continually asserting their authority and negotiate policy shifts towards ones that recognize, support, and fund their work.
Grassroots women’s groups are conducting action research projects to gather knowledge of their communities and use this knowledge in advocacy work. Through this work, grassroots women are continuously proving their capacity to serve as knowledgeable resources in their communities.
Many grassroots women’s organizations have developed into national level networks after joining GROOTS, enabling them to expand their membership, support and power. Groups have strengthened their leadership and capacity to articulate their collective knowledge. With the support of other women in GROOTS, individual grassroots women leaders have grown into greater leadership roles, guiding a global movement.
The methodologies developed and promoted by GROOTS have enhanced the capacity of grassroots women to lead sustainable development projects on the ground. These methodologies have been recognized as effective tools for women’s empowerment, sharing of knowledge, and creating strategic advocacy messages. The Grassroots Academy methodology, a tool developed and implemented by GROOTS members, won the Dubai Best Practices Award in 2006.
Associacao das Entidades de Apoio ao Desencolvimento Sustentavel de Pintadas (Brazil)
Ntankah Village Women Common Initiatives Group (Cameroon)
Common Initiative Group of the Women Farmers of Bogso (Cameroon)
GROOTS Canada (Canada)
Alianza de Mujeres Costarricense (Costa Rica)
Czech Mothers Centers (Czech Republic)
Movimiento Nacional de Mujeres de Sectores Populares, Luna Creciente (Ecuador)
Mother Centers International- MINE (Europe)
Grassroots Sisterhood Foundation (Ghana)
German Mothers Centers (Germany)
Comite de Emergencia Garifuna (Honduras)
Convenant Center for Development (India)
Swayam Shikshan Prayog-SSP (India)
Working Women’s Forum (India)
Cork Women’s Education Initiatives-CWEI (Ireland)
Jamaican Sistren Theatre (Jamaica)
GROOTS Jamaica (Jamaica)
GROOTS Kenya (Kenya)
Union de Cooperativas las Brumas (Nicaragua)
International Women’s Communication Center (Nigeria)
Mokosoi Grassroots WOmen;s Association- GROOTS Papua New Guinea (Paupa New Guinea)
GROOTS Peru (Peru)
Mujeres Unidas Para Un Pueblo Mejor (Peru)
La Central de Bancos Comunales del Augustino y Santa Anita (Peru)
Servicios Educativos del Augustino-SEA (Peru)
Red de Mujers Lima Este (Peru)
Confederacion Nacional de Mujeres Organizadas por la Vida y el Desarrollo Integral-CONAMOVIDI (Peru)
Rwanda Women’s Network (Rwanda)
Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (Turkey)
The National Congress of Neighborhood Women (United States)
Girl Child Network (Zimbabwe)
GROOTS Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)