Giving Compass' Take:

• Neeta Routela discusses six lessons that she learned from her time with a feminist organization that works with women in rural and urban communities across India. 

• Community development work can be challenging if organizations and communities don't have aligned goals. How can leaders from both entities ensure that their missions are collaborative and have the same end goal?

• Read about these community development strategies within the international development space.

Jagori, where we work, is a feminist organisation that grew out of the women’s movement of the 1980s. Over the years we have worked with marginalised women in rural and urban communities across India, primarily focusing on violence against women and women’s rights. Here are some of the lessons we have learned.

  1. Don’t be a spokesperson for the community you’re working with Our philosophy is to build leadership within the community. To do this, we start by using collective processes to develop an understanding of the communities’ needs. We then provide them with the tools, technical support, and guidance they need to build leadership skills.
  2. Stay true to your vision Sometimes when working with communities it is easy to get swayed from the purpose of your organisation.
  3. Create space for sustainable change When working to change mindsets amongst communities, it is important to remember that you’re not challenging people’s experiences or identities.
  4. Navigating systems We work with the police and train them to respond to instances of violence in communities. Before our initial interactions with the police force, we thought we would sit together with them and discuss the issues, as we do when we work in communities.
  5. Overcome your fear Entering a community to work on issues that nobody wants to talk about (like domestic violence, abuse, etc.) can be met with a lot of backlash. As an outsider, you are navigating years of patriarchy, and you are doing it in a place that is outside your comfort zone.
  6. Stay open to changing your approach For many years, Jagori did not work with men at all. Over time we realised that while we were talking to women about violence and equal rights, if we wanted to challenge patriarchy, we needed to create awareness among the people and the institutions that uphold it.

Read the full article about lessons from working with communities by Neetu Routela, Sarita Balooni, and Shruti Batra at India Development Review.