Promoting Partnerships with Communities

Promoting Partnerships with Communities

The Myth of Community:

The cutting edge of development practice is described in the terms of “participation”, “community-driven action”, and “empowerment”. The broad aim of participatory development is to increase the involvement of socially and economically marginalized people in decision making over their own lives. The assumption is that participatory approaches empower the local people with the skills and confidence to analyze their situation, reach consensus, make decisions and take actions, so as to improve their circumstances. The ultimate goal is more equitable and sustainable development.

Yet in many cases where participation has been pursued something is going wrong. Despite the stated intentions of social inclusion, it has become clear that many participatory development initiatives do not deal well with the complexity of community differences, including age, economic, religious, caste, ethnic and in particular, gender. Looking back, it is apparent that “community” has often been viewed naively, or in practice dealt with, as a harmonious and internally equitable collective. Too often there has been an inadequate understanding of the internal dynamics and differences that are so crucial to positive outcomes. This mythical notion of community cohesion continues to permeate much participatory work, hiding a bias that favors the opinions and priorities of those with more power and the ability to voice them publicly. In particular, there is a minimal consideration of gender issues and an inadequate involvement of women. While a handful of women may sometimes be consulted, rarely does a thorough understanding of the complexity of gender relations help structure the process, the analysis and any resulting community plans. Some view a gender-neutral participatory approach, at times with pride, as non-intrusive and culturally sensitive.

Forging Partnerships with Communities: In the cooperation that has always been at the heart of Aparajeyo’s approach, communities who either directly or indirectly interact with children are our principal stakeholders. This cooperation becomes vibrant and productive when these stakeholders share common values and join the partnership of collaboration, which is essential for the protection and promotion of child rights. The well-being of children is heavily determined by what happens in the private spheres of their lives, within their families, households and communities. A child rights approach requires that the programmes implemented by Aparajeyo develops genuine modes of partnerships and participation with communities and local institutions as full actors in the project development rather than participants in projects which are planned and managed outside their sphere of influence.

However, in a conservative society and culture it is difficult to get communities to accept the problems encountered by children in difficult circumstances because they are either marginalized due to their poverty, treated as outcasts & burdens to society and their occupation is considered illegal and morally abhorrent. Furthermore, society finds it difficult to accept that they are responsible for double standard on moral issues. The main objective of community sensitization activities was to improve mass public opinion and responsiveness towards disadvantaged children. Community sensitization is aimed to make communities participate and build ownership with the programmes so that children become more acceptable, treated with dignity and respect, develop their self-esteem. their rights are promoted and protected, reduce their social problems etc.