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Approach to Capacity Building - December 2004

Section III: Enabling the District Environment

14. Improving NGO - Government Collaboration and Gender-Responsiveness in the Districts

| Strengthening Civil Society - Gender Allies | Strengthening Civil Society - District NGO Association Strengthening | Creating NGO and Local Government Interface |

CNGO set out to assist government to fulfill its mandate under the Local Self Governance Act by increasing civil society input into local government operations. The project also hoped that input from the PNGOs, with their commitment to gender equality, would encourage gender mainstreaming in district government. A series of interventions were implemented to bring more NGOs, more women, and more gender analysis into district-level plan¬ning processes and program implementation. Three main strategies were: strengthening civil society, creating a platform for NGO-government interface, and forming district gender equality committees.

1. Strengthening Civil Society
The first priority in strengthening government-NGO links was to enhance the capacity of PNGOs. Increasing PNGO ability to build links with local government and to apply a gender analysis to planning proc¬esses and policy development supported them to engage with local gov¬ernment on a more equal basis. With the leadership of strengthened PNGOs, the Gender Allies were formed as a grouping of like-minded individuals and organizations to coordinate and advocate on gender issues. In addition, CNGO supported the capacity of district NGO associations as a collective voice in the NGO-Government interface.

2. Creating NGO-Government Interface
Research by CNGO supported the importance of local government-NGO collabo¬ration in achieving effective and gender-responsive development in communities. CNGO and the Ministry of Local Development (MLD) agreed to work together to develop a model for coordinating civil society input into district plan¬ning and operations.

3.Forming a Gender Equality Committee (GEC) within District Government
CNGO and the Department of Women Development (DWD) built on the skills of the Women Development Officers (WDO) and the PNGOs to develop a government-NGO partnership focused on gender equality. The role of the pilot GECs was to support district programming for gen¬der equality, develop skills and knowledge on gender policies and strategies, and report to DDCs annually on the status of gender mainstreaming in the district.

The development and sustainability of GECs and the DDC-NGO committees were affected by the absence of elected bodies.

14.1. Strengthening Civil Society - Gender Allies

"Gender Allies" was an initiative of the PNGOs. After a year and a half of capacity building, PNGOs had developed their understanding of gender, gained advocacy skills, and developed links with key stakeholders. They were identifying many issues affecting women in their communities. It became clear that to ad¬dress these issues, and achieve their vision for gender equality, they needed to develop allies and build a district environment that was conducive to positive change. At the National Gender Conference sponsored by CNGO they discussed ways to create pressure groups and decided to develop local networks of allies who could identify critical local issues and work together to improve the situation of local women. PNGOs asked CNGO to support them in launching these networks.

To develop Gender Allies, PNGOs began by meeting with key individuals, then organizing group meetings to develop a shared understanding and vision of gender equality. District officials were included or kept informed. CNGO provided support and advice, but not direction, in order to promote ownership by the PNGOs and, eventually, other district stakeholders. Several reflection meetings were held among the PNGOs to share their experiences and problem-solve together on ways to move ahead. Limited funds were provided to encourage PNGOs to dedicate time and resources. At that point the commitment to the process was based on internal motivation of the PNGOs and the Gender Allies members, and the only encouragement came from successes of the group and the support of the NGO coordinators. Funds were also allocated for training workshops among the allies members, delivered by the PNGOs.

Gender Allies work included acting as advo¬cates with local authorities, linking women who had been abused to appropriate mechanisms for justice, conducting gender audits, organizing campaigns, and providing gender awareness training for community groups and government bodies. Although the time needed to get a network off the ground varied from district to district, all of the PNGOs and Allies saw the impact of their work in resolving issues and creating space for difficult issues such as chhaupadi and domestic violence to be openly discussed and addressed. However, Gender Allies has proven challenging for the PNGOs to sustain without external support, and due to the still deeply held resistance to gender equality in the districts.

For more detail refer to Gender Allies Report in Reference #10 of Section 6.

14.2. Strengthening Civil Society - District NGO Association Strengthening

The primary CNGO partners for capacity strengthening were the PNGOs. But, without a collective voice for development that speaks for the needs of poor and marginalized groups, including women, civil society risks marginalization. An active association is critical to promote DDC – NGO interaction. In addition, PNGO gender advocacy could be strengthened by cooperation with a wider NGO platform. Therefore, CNGO planned capacity support to strengthen NGO associations in the districts.

The first step was to hold meetings with existing associations, whether they were active or dormant, in each working district to assess interest and capacity. With CNGO and PNGO facilitation, the associations discussed their successes and problems. CNGO then held two cluster workshops (terai and west clusters) to discuss the purpose of associations and how to examine their association’s strengths and weaknesses. As the CNGO approach was to build from the situation of each district, the workshop identified how CNGO could plan its support to association strengthening. Association members were requested to continue their discussions on issues and a way forward when they returned to their districts.

With some sensitization and clarity on association management, a district level workshop several months later then explored the local issues and identified processes to improve their situation. This workshop highlighted the need for and the role of NGO associations, and some of the basic elements of a well functioning network (democracy, transparency, inclusiveness, active, well-managed). Since internal conflict issues dominated the associations in several districts, more intensive efforts were made to facilitate better working relations. In other districts, the level of awareness and experience of associations was weak, and the districts needed time to build a conceptual understanding of the benefits of networking.

Finally, an intensive workshop on network management with key members from each association was conducted to build skills to take back to their district. The workshop covered networking concepts, issues and problems of networks, and management issues such as governance, programs, operations, membership and resource mobilization. Each district developed an action plan to take back with them.

In addition, when CNGO held district and central stakeholder events, NGO associations were usually included to promote their role as a collective NGO voice.

14.3. Creating NGO and Local Government Interface

When CNGO began working in the districts, a baseline study indicated there was little dialogue between DDCs and NGOs. No forum existed to share information on program priorities and activities, for example. DDCs reflected they did not have clear guidelines on how to mobilize programs with NGOs. They were not aware of the strengths of NGOs as partners, while on the other hand, NGOs were reluctant to engage with DDCs.

An enabling environment was needed to support improved collaboration between local government and NGOs, and to overcome patterns of distrust and non-communication. The program focused on strengthening the capacity of district level partners, especially DDCs, LAs and NGOs, in building and sustaining collaborative relationship.

A central level committee was struck to guide and advise on program implementation, and to facilitate integration of successful structures and guidelines into HMGN systems, as appropriate. Members included representatives of MLD, SWC, Association of International NGOs, NGO Federation of Nepal, Association of District Development Committees of Nepal and later, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.

DDCs and NGOs were supported in the establishment of district level partnership forums (DDC/NGO Partnership Committees) primarily focused on fostering partnership or linkages between DDC, LAs and NGOs. These committees encouraged DDCs and NGOs to exchange ideas, share information in a transparent manner and develop common goals and programs. The committee, under the umbrella of DDC, was represented by DDC, local NGOs, district level Federation of NGOs, NGO coordination committee, INGOs and/or their national NGO partners active in the district, MLD district based staff, District Administration Office and selected HMG line agencies. A balance of partners facilitated trustful mutual work by the DDC/NGO Committee or Desk. The program hoped for gender balance in the formation of the DDC/NGO partnership committees, although the absence of women representatives was a problem. Some of the DDCs established a separate NGO Desk and a DDC staff was assigned to manage the work.

The committees were facilitated to define their roles and functions based on the needs of the district:
  • enhance NGO participation in district development planning and mobilization of NGOs in district development programs.
  • identify appropriate roles for NGOs based on their strengths and potentials.
  • monitor NGOs and strengthen their capability.
  • promote interaction between various development actors for mutual sharing and learning.
  • formulate policies to promote local NGOs/CBOs and enhance their capability and sustainability.
  • mainstream gender perspectives in district development policy and planning.
NGO Coordinator and PNGO roles: The NGO coordinators facilitated relationship-building and provided legitimacy for the PNGOs to engage with DDCs. They conducted regular meetings on an informal basis and encouraged the committee chair to call DDC-NGO meetings. Gradually, the PNGOs became more active and took ownership for their own relationship with DDC. As members of the district committee, the PNGOs have assumed leadership roles such as facilitating the NGOs in a district planning workshop and sitting as a member of the Local Development Fund.

CNGO provided support for district workshops to enable the Committee or Desk to network with the NGOs, to publish NGO directories and develop their own protocols. A central level workshop of stakeholders consolidated the district learnings.
Systems and procedures to strengthen partnership
Guidelines and procedures were developed based on the practical experience of the committees and are documented in the report “NGO Mobilization and Coordination Guidelines for DDCs” to facilitate collaboration between DDCs and NGOs in the following areas:

  • Participatory NGO monitoring system
    Establish a system within DDC for participatory monitoring of NGO which allows district level planners to: a) identify areas and sectors of NGO coverage; b) recognize the contribution of NGOs; c) categorize NGOs on the basis of their sectoral expertise; and, d) provide feedback and support to NGOs. The monitoring system is not a control mechanism but a tool for learning to improve planning and implementation.

  • Guidelines for contracting NGOs
    Define criteria and process for selection and engagement of NGOs in the implementation of programs funded by MLD, DDCs and HMG line agencies. The guidelines contain systems and tools related to identification and selection of NGOs, review of proposals, partnership agreement, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Transparency in selection, implementation, monitoring and evaluation help maintain political neutrality, and build trust between NGOs and other district level agencies. This also promotes and strengthens the role of NGOs in development. The guidelines, based on best practices, serve as models for MLD, DDCs and HMG line agencies in the selection and contracting of NGOs.
Gender Strategies
Gender integration in the planning and implementation was to be achieved through women’s representation on the committee and at workshops and training events. A gender in planning workshop was conducted for the committee members, in collaboration with the PNGOs.

“NGO Mobilization and Coordination Guidelines for DDCs”: Available from CNGO and MLD

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