Global Grassroots’ mission is to catalyze and support the efforts of under-served change agents working independently, collectively, and systematically to advance the rights and wellbeing of women and girls in developing countries, through grassroots social ventures.
Life Challenges of the Women Served
Women undeniably bear the greatest burden of war and conflict. Rampant violence and rape as a weapon of war have left hundreds of thousands of women in Rwanda traumatized, impoverished, and stigmatized. The lives of these women are further complicated as women typically make up the majority of a population post-conflict; they find themselves left to head households and to care for children alone, including their own, as well as those orphaned by war, genocide, or AIDS.
As the primary caretakers of their families and communities, women naturally have the greatest insight into the critical issues facing society. They have a unique and intimate understanding of the issues’ underlying root causes; they are critical in defining social change priorities for families, communities, and national government. Yet women often have the least access to the financial resources, education, skills training, and other support needed to advance their plans for systemic social change.
Global Grassroots has supported both individual and community healing using holistic methods and skills training. Individual women find meaning and a sense of empowerment in exercising their rights, knowledge and newly mastered skills. This program helps foster human rights and participation for otherwise marginalized women in local decision-making and problem-solving processes. These endeavors serve to restore the connection between survivors and their communities, an element critical not only to individual psychological healing, but also to the effectiveness of post-conflict reconstruction.
Global Grassroots works through grassroots networks and partnerships to identify among vulnerable women those who are committed to transforming the lives of women and girls. Participants include widows, single mothers, genocide survivors, women living with HIV/AIDS, women with only a primary school education, and women subsistence farmers. Men, who are eager to combat the underlying issues affecting women and girls, are welcome in the program and on average are 10 percent of Academy for Conscious Change participants.
The simple application requires that change agents form a team, identify their social issue priority, and propose a solution collectively to address that issue. Global Grassroots target groups at the earliest stage of the idea development, and invite at least five representatives of each selected team into the Academy for Conscious Change.
Phases of the Program
Phase 1: Training Program
Personal Growth and Leadership
Trauma and Recovery
Some of the most significant challenges faced by Rwandan beneficiaries are tied to their experiences of trauma. Individuals who experience or witness traumatic events, especially war, genocide and sexual violence, very often undergo deep psychological stress, otherwise known in Western psychology as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma-focused studies and surveys conducted in Rwanda leave no doubt as to the devastating psychological impact of genocide and war. When dealing with the aftermath of trauma, a long-term or lifetime approach to healing is key.
Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery, states about the healing process of rape victims, “…we do know that women who recover most successfully are those who discover some meaning in their experience that transcends the limits of personal tragedy. Most commonly, women find this meaning by joining with others in social action”. Endeavors that give a voice to the disempowered and allow for a survivor to identify her value to community, provides a tremendously powerful path for both individual and community healing.
This first phase of the Academy is a 40-hour intensive, interactive training course that accelerates the process of personal and societal transformation helping these future change leaders expand their sense of self-awareness, develop tools for transforming oppression and suffering, cultivate compassion, and initiate change responsibly which is essential for social change. This may avoid the pitfalls of burnout, abuse of power or pursuits that detract from constructive social change. Practices in meditation and breathing, and promote self-care to alleviate stress are shared with participants.
Because the experience of terror during a traumatic event is closely linked to one’s sense of helplessness, additional efforts to support empowerment, connection and self-sufficiency can augment the treatment of trauma from extreme fear, long-term abuse, torture and violence that causes psychological trauma.
Global Grassroots’ Academy for Conscious Change explicitly incorporates personal as well as social repair, such as:
- Training in a range of mind-body techniques that have had a scientifically demonstrated impact in addressing holistically the broad range of symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
- Opportunities for women to form teams, which can also serve as support groups for survivors with similar experiences.
- Issue diagnosis and creative problem solving. This supports a reclaiming of one’s sense of agency and value to others.
- Facilitate a self-led opportunity to combat the failures of society and create new programs to serve others in need.
This multi-pronged approach, which integrates personal and social transformation, offers an optimal, holistic solution to trauma healing and post-conflict reconstruction.
Social Entrepreneurship & Non-Profit Management Training
Integrated with the personal transformation work and conscious leadership practices, training provides all of the skills needed to create a viable community-based organization or “micro-NGO” that will address a core issue facing women and girls. Social issue priorities and diagnosing core causes are mapped and project teams then enter an intensive venture-design process to construct a mission and vision, theory of change, operational plan, organizational design, budget, creative resourcing strategies, evaluation metrics, strategic partnerships, a code of conduct and communications strategy.
Phase 2: Non-Profit Venture Development
Teams move into a 3-6 month phase of hands-on organizational development support to prepare for launch. Local staff works with each team to diagnose their social issue, design a solution that will work on a systemic and root level, and create a programmatic and organizational structure that will achieve their social change objectives. Coaching is offered to ensure that the new NGO is designed to be self-sufficient, has measurable goals and objectives, has conducted a baseline assessment of its chosen social issue, has a feasible operating and financial structure, has the organizational structure necessary to carry out the proposed activities, and will work at the root level to create systemic change for women and girls.
Phase 3: Seed Funding
Ventures, which meet criteria for social impact and sustainability, receive seed funding between $4,000 – $6,000 for their start-up costs in the form of a grant. Prior to funding, it is required that each organization design and incorporate creative resourcing strategies that ensure the venture can meet its operating needs from the local community, so that it does not need to depend upon further funding from foreign donors.
Global Grassroots is not a micro-finance fund – they do not provide loans and do not support the creation of small businesses or craft-based income generating projects. While microfinance exists for impoverished women for such projects, it may not provide the level of funding necessary to tackle systemic social issues such as domestic violence, rape, illiteracy, or sexual exploitation. Such sizeable start-up debt could strain and distract these early stage social ventures from their social purposes. All Global Grassroots ventures are sustainable micro-NGOs funded with start-up grants allowing work in close partnership with teams.
Phase 4: Non-Profit Management Apprenticeship
Each team receives a further 12 months of high-engagement support – a non-profit management apprenticeship. This support includes re-teaching skills as needed, verifying budgets, overseeing the spending of funding, reviewing bookkeeping, helping teams design and implement baseline issue studies, working with local government officials, supporting teams in their monitoring and evaluation process, obtaining and translating quarterly reports, arranging for expert volunteers to provide additional expertise, networking at the national level, providing mentoring, marketing and communications support, and consulting on financial sustainability. Global Grassroots’ staff conducts site visits and regular program-specific consultations to help each venture reach self-sufficiency ideally within one year.
Evaluation metrics and ongoing assessment are incorporated into the operations phase to ensure the development of an effective and sustainable organization. Once operational, teams submit quarterly reports over 12 months, and conduct a detailed program assessment after one year to evaluate their impact and refine their approach.
Participatory Development and Women’s Leadership
Program graduates develop the skills to launch and sustain a variety of programs, each committed to expanding the choices, capacity and opportunities of vulnerable women and girls. Some of the teams have:
- Built safe latrines and local advocacy campaigns so that girls can attend school without risk of assault, bullying and sexual exploitation at the age of menstruation.
- Taught tailoring skills that allow women to develop economic independence, empowering them to leave abusive husbands.
- Built clean water access-points so that girls can attend school rather than fetching water.
- Used the access-points as venues for community education on HIV prevention, health and hygiene.
- Taught sewing skills to sex workers, while providing them with training in HIV prevention and financial management, and educating their children for free.
The variety in the program portfolio is significant, because for each initiative local women and girls set an agenda for development specific to their own communities’ needs.
Questions for Discussion
- How do you respond when someone, unasked, tries to tell you what you need to do to solve a problem—or points to something as a problem that you don’t think is a problem?
- How do you feel when you have wrestled with some issue, arrive at your own solution, and implement it successfully?
- Have you ever been part of a small local group—a neighborhood association, a service club, or a group of friends to successfully address an issue? How did that feel? What made it work?
The Project Budget and How DFW's Donations will be used
The $50,000 grant from DFW will:
- Provide seed funding for the launch of three new ventures designed by and for vulnerable women and girls in Rwanda in late 2012.
- Initiate a new Academy for Conscious Change in Rwanda in 2013, with a cohort of 7-10 new teams, once all projects currently in the pipeline are operational and program in Northern Uganda is underway.
|Academy for Social Change||
|Salaries – program staff to carry out program activities||
|Social Ventures Grants||
|Educational Curriculum Tools||
|Intensive Training Program||
|Project Development & High Engagement Support||
|Total to be supported by DFW||
Please note: Net donations over the $50,000 grant amount will be reserved to ensure we fund in full all future selected program grant requests, and to offer a $25,000 – $30,000 grant to an organization selected by member voting through the new Member Choice Program.
Why We Love This Project
“We believe in the capacity of grassroots women to drive social change. Our role is to serve as facilitators, supporting otherwise underserved women in their efforts to deepen their sense of agency and to create sustainable social change.“ Global Grassroots
This program is so exciting because it combines a thoughtful, holistic approach to supporting women who have experienced extreme trauma in the wake of war, with empowerment and real skill-building through supporting the launch of social ventures. Global Grassroots has developed an incredibly creative program that builds leadership and applicable skills, provides trauma healing, and through social enterprises addresses the needs of other women and girls in their community.
Global Grassroots does not impose their values, social issue priorities or solutions. They coach teams in diagnosing their own social issues, crafting their theory of change and organizational development to support their process of decision-making. Global Grassroots encourages sharing of best practices among team and ideas of social innovations. At each stage of collaboration, they embrace local women’s wisdom and ownership. They believe that these women are the experts in their own experiences.
Evidence of Success
Since 2006, Global Grassroots has trained 300 emerging change agents, who have launched 21 sustainable civil society organizations, with another 5 social ventures in development. Teams directly serve nearly 15,000 vulnerable women and girls annually, and have impacted approximately 40,000 lives, including the children of venture beneficiaries. On average, each of the social ventures serves between 500 and 1500 women and girls directly, but through the improved wellbeing, sense of power, economic opportunity, and social impact experienced by each woman or girl, her extended family and community also benefit.
While counting the number of beneficiaries of Global Grassroots-funded social ventures is informative, the truest understanding of social-level impact comes from listening to the voices of grassroots women with whom they have worked.
Please see ‘Voices’ below for quotes from beneficiaries of various Global Grassroots programs currently in operation.
In Rwanda Global Grassroots has established a local advisory council made up of five of beneficiaries and team leaders. The council advises on the effectiveness of the programs, assesses goals and metrics for evaluation and provides regular feedback on what is necessary to improve the understanding and response to local needs. As a result of the advisory council’s feedback and collaboration, more local guidance for new teams, and impact assessment has been overhauled to ensure alignment with culturally acceptable norms.
Global Grassroots aims to have a transformative impact on graduates, teams, and the broader community. They evaluate their effectiveness in terms of:
- Individual healing and leadership of our graduates
- Number of sustainable ventures launched
- Ventures’ positive social impact
- Teams’ abilities to iteratively solve other social issues
Through pre-and post-training assessments and interviews, designed with graduates, Global Grassroots evaluates:
- Individual economic wellbeing
- Skills acquisition
- Symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome)
- Perceived quality of life
- Sense of power in family and community
- Beliefs in the rights of women and girls
The outcome objectives for each venture that completes the 18-month Academy are:
- All participants will raise their sense of perceived wellbeing, including improvement on their scores for PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome), by 50%.
- 75% of participants’ will reach a normalized sense of personal power.
- 75% of teams will have acquired advanced project planning and project management skills, as measured by their ability to launch and sustain their own civil society organization.
- At least 80% of all ventures are operating as sustainable civil society organizations within 1 year, as measured by their ability to generate all funding necessary to cover their operating costs from their own initiative and via their own local community, determined through a review of venture bookkeeping and financial reports.
- Each project has a measurable impact at the root level of the social issue it is designed to address, as measured by venture baseline and annual issue and impact studies.
- Within 12 months of operations, 75% of teams will apply their social venture skills to solve at least one new social issue in their community, will be planning to expand their operation, and will have taught their social entrepreneurship skills to others within their communities, as measured through quarterly reports, follow-up site visits, beneficiary interviews and annual impact assessments.
Global Grassroots periodically conducts rigorous assessments in order to better understand and meet the needs of partners and beneficiaries in the communities with which they work. Every two to three years they invest in an 8-10 week intensive impact assessment of their program and venture teams.
Global Grassroots Academy for Conscious Change program
“Now I feel like I can move… I can join the other people…I have come to understand my own value. I know that I can participate in the team. I can help them; I can give my ideas… [Global Grassroots] required us to think more, and open our minds, and think more creatively, and find solutions.”
– Christine Nyirandeya, team advisor of People of Love
“The [Global Grassroots] training has taught me to think big… Now, I can go somewhere and knock and ask for a grant or anything. Apart from that, in my own community, I have become a conflict resolver. If in the neighborhood there is a conflict, women come to me – they trust me. I go with them to solve those conflicts. It helps me to change the quality of life in my community.”
– Jeanette Muteteri, treasurer of Have a Good Life
Vocational skills and health/women’s rights training for vulnerable populations
“I know how to claim my rights and how to help other women to claim their rights, too.
This helps me be safe and independent.”
– Beneficiary of Construct the Family
Girls’ hygiene and reproductive health
“Now I am able to discuss with my children reproductive health and change of life, and tell them this is normal. I encourage them to share this with me. Before, I was ashamed to talk about it, but now I no longer have that shame and I can advise them about the consequences of their actions. This project has helped me to know my responsibilities as a parent and as a neighbor. We need to support girls and promote a bright future for them.”
-Beneficiary of Think About The Young Girls
“Before, when I was selling in the market, if I was selling tomatoes for 30, and the person gave me 100, I used to give him 90 instead of 70. So I lost 20. At the end of the day I would realize that I was in debt, because I couldn’t do the calculations. Now I can do it well. If I make a mistake, and I go to look for that person and say please, I made a mistake, give me my twenty.”
– Beneficiary of Let Us Build Ourselves
Gender-based violence and women’s rights
“Before, we believed that the man has power over the property, and considered him as the head of household. Now, after the training, we learned that property belongs to the whole family, and the family should make decisions together.”
– Beneficiary of Have Pity and Compassion
Reducing disease, violence, and girls’ absence from school, associated with lack of access to clean water
“Before, when I walked long distances to fetch water, I would leave my baby at home and my children had to miss school in order to stay home and care for the baby. But now this doesn’t have to happen anymore and the child who in secondary school is always attending.”
– Beneficiary of Have a Good Life
Where They Work
DFW supports programs that work to reach the 2015 Millennium Developmental Goals, developed by the United Nations to address the needs of the world’s poorest people by 2015. The goal addressed by Global Grassroots in Rwanda is:
April 6, 1994, marked the beginning of the swiftest genocide the world has ever seen. One hundred days later, an estimated one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been brutally murdered by their own countrymen. The government estimated that after the genocide, women made up as much as 70% of the population. The UN estimates that 250,000 – 500,000 women and girls were raped, 67% of whom Amnesty International reports contracted HIV. Countless children witnessed the slaughter of their parents, often by people they had previously known as friends and neighbors. When the last machete was wielded, the country was left virtually destroyed.
Today, Rwanda is still in the process of healing and rebuilding. Since the genocide, Rwanda has made women’s participation in government a priority and women leaders have since played a role in ensuring that a gender perspective is applied to Rwanda’s development and reconstruction. However, there remains a gap between national policy and behavior in many local communities. At the grassroots level, women often lack both the understanding of their rights and the capacity to protect and enforce those rights. They also often lack the sense of empowerment or opportunity necessary to drive social change in their communities. This limits women’s active participation in the post-conflict reconstruction process and limits local society’s ability to protect its most vulnerable citizens from future violence. Consequently, Global Grassroots believes it is vital to catalyze community-based social ventures led by women in Rwanda so as to raise awareness of, strengthen, and advance the practical framework for ensuring the advancement and empowerment of Rwandan women.
- Global Grassroots website
- Documents provided by Global Grassroots to Dining for Women
- Wikipedia article – “Rwanda”
- On the DFW August Program webpage for Global Grassroots you will also find:
- Food for Thought
- Program Presentation – PowerPoint and PDF files provided by Global Grassroots
- Program Videos – links and downloadable files
- Fair Trade, Books, Film and Music recommendations (Music is new – check it out!)
The U.N. 2015 Millennium Developmental Goals: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/