The Raising Her Voice Global Programme

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Raising Her Voice (RHV) was a new kind of Oxfam
  OXFAM ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP CASE STUDY   By Duncan Green Raising Her Voice (RHV) is a new kind of Oxfam ‘global programme’, assembling a portfolio of projects in a similar field, working in different countries and regions. 1  From 2008  – 13, the RHV portfolio supported 19 projects across four continents, 17 national 2  and two regional, 3  working to ensure that wo men’s voices influence decision making about services, public spending, policies and legal frameworks. This case study draws heavily on reflections fro m the programme’s final evaluation report, summary and other Raising Her Voice learning materials (see Notes/Further Reading). THE RAISING HER VOICE GLOBAL PROGRAMME  BACKGROUND The grim litany of statistics that underpin the Raising Her Voice (RHV) programme are well known, but bear repeating. Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, 4  produce half of the world's food, 5  but earn less and own less. On average, women earn half of what men earn. 6  Despite recent progress, women comprise two of every three adults in the world that cannot read and write. 7  Gender based violence is ubiquitous, with a knock- on effect on women’s participation . Globally, in July 2014 there were only 18 elected women heads of state, and 22 percent of parliamentarians were women. 8  Discrimination begins even before birth, through selective abortion, and continues on into childhood and school, as this RHV quote illustrates: When my brothers went to school I had to stay back home to help my mother in household work. I was just an unimportant little girl who would, one day, get married and go to another house to bear and raise children and perform household chores. It took a lot of courage just to convince myself that I was no less important than others.  RHV interviewee, Harimaya, Nepal BUDGET RHV received £5.8 m in funding over five years, from DFID (£5m) and Oxfam GB (£0.8m). Split between the numbers of partners and projects, and after global coordination costs, this averaged just under £22,000 per partner per year, and just over £50,000 per project. Not surprisingly perhaps, RHV’s own analysis showed that its most effective projects operated on larger (£120,000 pa) budgets. However, evaluations of projects with much smaller budgets (c. £40,000 pa) such as Uganda, Nigeria and the Gambia, recognised the value of RHV funding as a catalyst for nascent national coalitions. RHV has provided the platform and legitimacy for CSOs to collectively advocate for legislation of the VAPP (Violence Against Persons Prohibition) Bill... In turn, the Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women (LACVAW) campaign has increased the support for the RHV project through the huge momentum created around the VAPP Bill and by expanding its partnership base and outreach.  Fiona Gell, 2012 9   MONITORING, EVALUATION AND LEARNING With its focus on long-term and collaborative processes of social transformation, unequivocally demonstrating the gains of programmes like RHV is notoriously difficult. The three-sphere model, though introduced half-way through the programme’s evolution, has helped overcome some of the obstacles.  Several country evaluations have found creative ways of understanding and demonstrating impact and contribution. For example, the evaluation of RHV Nepal (unpublished) used a comparator group to show the dramatic changes in capacities, confidence, and community support witnessed in RHV villages compared to those where the project had not been active. RHV partners in Guatemala developed formal accountability reports for the women they worked with and for local authorities, as a way of modelling the type of transparency that they themselves were calling for. The RHV evaluation provides useful reflections for the monitoring of future governance projects  –  including the importance of allowing sufficient time for the development of individual and collective frameworks that find context-specific ways of identifying and articulating the changes sought. At global level, the RHV team were committed to documenting learning about both the processes and the strategies used by RHV activists,   partners, and coalitions. Case studies, thematic reflection papers, and blogs and videos from   the women involved are available on the RHV community site ( THEORY OF CHANGE The RHV theory of change positions the projects within feminist theory, recognizing that entrenched male domination and power is the context for women’s limited participation and voice. Beyond the basic commitment to enhancing women’s voice in governance, RHV began life without an explicit theory of change. By the mid-term review in 2011, an underlying pattern was discernible, resulting in the proposed (and later adopted) programme level theory of change. The theory (see Figure 1) identifies three broad spheres  –  personal, political and social  –   which influence women’s opportunities to participate in governance, and which need to change in or  der to strengthen women’s voices.  The political  spaces need to be more open, inclusive and representative of women. This includes public and customary laws, policies, structures and decision making processes, the mechanisms by which women can claim and uphold their rights and interests. For a woman to create, access and take up opportunities for participation and influence, she needs personal capacity, self-esteem and confidence. The RHV theory of change highlights the need to work on this sphere, to redress the situation whereby the political and social spheres have strong influence over a marginalize d woman’s ability to participate, influence and secure her rights, but she has little opportunity to influence them back. This is also critical in enabling ‘less powerful’ women to communicate their priorities and challenge the assumptions made by the ‘more powerful’, be they men or women.  Figure 1: Raising Her Voice Theory of Change  After months sleeping ‘ under the sky ’  following a dispute with her landlord, Neetan Kohli (far- left),Women’s Leadership Group (WLG) member in Hatri, Hyderabad, has returned to her home and to work in the fields, with the support of the WLGs (2012). Photo © Irina Werning. Source: J. Repila (2013) 10   The social  sphere supports and embeds changes in attitudes, relationships and behaviours. It includes norms promoted or upheld by cultural and religious institutions and the media, as well as the strength and capacity of the women’s movement and civil society to sup port women with a platform to raise their voices. Building the collective voice recognizes the benefits for individual women of ‘safety as well as strength in numbers’. The women’s movement as well as being a powerful force for change also provides protection for the vulnerable and isolated, especially when working in more volatile contexts e.g. Pakistan, Honduras. The evaluation confirmed that RHV projects have been most effective where all three spheres are clearly addressed  –  usually in partnership with others  –  and where complementary work was carried out to link pressure for change at local, district and national and international levels. This does not mean that each project must work in all three spheres, rather that projects need to acknowledge that changes in one sphere are not in themselves sufficient to shift the structural barriers to women’s full and effective participation in decision  – making. Project design and power analysis should therefore be mindful of how specific interventions link to or will work towards broader engagement across the other spheres  –  either by the same project over time, or in alliance with others.
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