Empowering Grassroots

Initiatives to develop the economic potential of women are becoming a staple of corporate activity in many parts of the world. But companies often overlook an important set of would-be partners—locally rooted organizations that promote a multi-faceted approach to women’s empowerment. Here’s a guide to cultivating partnerships that yield lasting value.

Economic empowerment is, to be sure, a crucial aspect of any significant push to make women full and equal participants in their communities. Strengthening the economic role of women is also critical to reducing poverty, improving health and education outcomes, and achieving other broad development goals.4 And the programs created by corporations in recent years to support this kind of empowerment—programs that provide women with skills, mentoring, access to networks and markets, and financial resources—have no doubt had a meaningful impact in many parts of the world.

The growth of the non-profit sector in India in the last two decades has been phenomenal. India has possibly the largest number of active non-government, not-for-profit organizations in the world. Official estimates put the number at 3.3 million. From relief services to educational initiatives, from healthcare projects to housing organizations, grassroots NGOs work in numerous spheres which touch the daily lives of marginalized communities across the country. Engaging directly with the people, these NGOs are able to participate in the thought-making process of the communities they work with, and thus have the capacity to bring about long-term change. As such, the sector has had a substantial contribution in the nation building process.

But accelerated development soon reaches a stagnant point if it is not sustainable. Ensuring sustainability of initiatives requires a reorientation of NGOs focusing on their capacity building to attain competitiveness. This is not an easy transition, requiring NGOs to rethink and reform their programme designs, planning, fund mobilization, fund management, and effective programme delivery. There is also a need to guide these NGOs to be able to identify and adapt with the changing national and global sociology-political and economic developments which affect them. To equip and facilitate grassroots NGOs in the country to address these issues and eventually aim at achieving sustainable development at the grassroots and community level.