There is immense untapped potential in women to promote transparency and accountability across the developing world, especially in areas where they are disproportionately affected by corruption, such as food security, social safety nets, maternal and child health, education, access to legal and judicial services, domestic violence and participatory governance. Institutional corruption in these services dramatically affects the well-being of the poorest members of society. Since women are the main beneficiaries of these services, and thus understand the corruption problems plaguing them best, their participation in anti-corruption projects leads to greater impact.
While no projects supported by PTF have specifically targeted women, the projects below display one or more of the following characteristics: (a) addresses one or more issues that affect mainly women; (b) women were the main participants and/or leaders; and (c) women were the main beneficiaries.
Ensuring Corruption Free Public Services
PTF has experienced great success in supporting projects which seek to eliminate corruption in public service delivery. Women’s participation in monitoring the delivery of services that they access ensures their needs are considered, increasing the scope and scale of these operations, while leaving lasting effects on women’s participation in governance.
CFAR, an Indian NGO that works in the urban slums of Bengaluru, established eight women’s groups to spread awareness about the government’s subsidized food schemes and provided training on how to access it. As women are usually responsible for the preparation and distribution of food in their households, improving access to food can greatly impact their livelihood. The participating women led a campaign to constitute monitoring centers and vigilance committees that ensured Fair Price Shops functioned fairly and without corrupt practices. As a result, the number of households accessing subsidized food increased, as did the rations distributed (up from 38% to 99% of entitlements). The groups had a multiplier effect as several CFAR trainees became trainers for women in other localities.
Ayauskam is a CSO in the Eastern state of Odisha that aims to empower people, especially those belonging to socially and economically disadvantaged castes, by raising awareness of health services and facilitating increased participation in community matters. The project supported by PTF was based on a three-pronged strategy to fight corruption in delivery of health services under two of the government’s central programs- the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and in the Integrated Child Development Scheme, both programs which are primarily utilized by women. The initiative trained women to identify corruption and facilitated the formation of Citizens Against Corruption forums. The project successfully trained 70 women and reduced the economic burden of many by eliminating the barriers to accessing free services.
Paraspara Trust, another NGO operating in Bengaluru’s slums, also focused on vigilance committees supervising the Fair Price Shops. Fair Price Shops are an integral part of the Indian government’s food security scheme. Ensuring proper functioning and curbing corruption can significantly reduce the economic burden on women and their households. Thanks to its efforts, a number of women became committee members. As with NJMO and CFAR, Paraspara Trust helped increase beneficiary satisfaction with the service provided by the Fair Price Shops. They also eliminated a number of bogus ration cards, yielding significant savings to the government. With the experience they gained through the project, some of the women have set up Fair Price Shops of their own. It was also observed that women made efforts to join local politics following the project.
Local Government Transparency, Accountability and Responsiveness
A main pillar of PTF’s work focuses on citizen engagement in local government oversight to increase transparency, accountability and responsiveness. The involvement of women’s groups in this effort can be particularly effective ensuring gender differentiated views, challenges and needs are recognized and addressed.
Sambandh, an NGO working in the eastern state of Odisha, India, encouraged the all-woman Baletarash Self Help Group to take on the local Panchayat (village level government) and organize a peaceful demonstration to highlight the poor condition of transport facilities and road infrastructure. These issues were of particular concern to the women as safety issues impacted their ability to travel. Their activities received extensive media coverage, and resulted in construction of essential rural roads that benefited women who were previously unable to access health services.
Reducing Corruption in Schools
Nearly 10 percent of PTF-supported projects address corruption in education systems. As women are primarily responsible for childcare, instances of corruption in this sector often has a disproportionate gender impact. PTF has supported several projects where women were not only the main beneficiaries, but the main project participants as well.
AGDGG is a non-profit organization that focuses on promoting ethical initiatives for community transformation. PTF supported a project that trained the school management board and the Parent Teacher Association at the Government Bilingual High School in Limbe, Cameroon to check corruption, promote transparency and accountability and ensure proper use and allocation of school resources. This project had a multiplier effect as the Principal of the school shared her training with other educational institutes in the area.
IGI-FITCAM is a UK registered charity organization that promotes good governance, transparency and accountability in public services. PTF supported a project aimed at strengthening the internal mechanisms of the University of Buena to effectively track and curb corruption in various forms (including trading of sexual favors for grades, physical abuse etc.) The project saw the emergence of several strong, committed women, who lead the charge against corruption in their institutes. The role of the Vice Chancellor of the University was integral in supporting and advocating for increased transparency, reducing waste of monetary and human resources.
National Level Advocacy
Occasionally PTF supports projects which aim to impact corruption at the national level. Once such project in Mongolia was implemented by Women for Social Progress, a CSO dedicated to increasing women’s participation in politics, educate voters and promote transparency and rule of law.
PTF supported a project implemented by WSP that addressed the inadequate regulatory framework in the Conflict of Interest Legislation in Mongolia. Seeking legislative reform, WSP produced a manual and trained representatives of each public service department, as well as parliamentary staff and representatives of the media and civil society. Their efforts attracted extensive media coverage and triggered off a nationwide debate around the abuse of power in Mongolia. WSP’s success resulted in greater politician-citizen engagement, and encouraged other CSO’s to join the anti-corruption fight.
Three key lessons learned emerged from the experiences of PTF-supported projects with significant women’s involvement:
Women Work Effectively in Groups. Working with women’s groups can help overcome social and societal hurdles, encouraging women to participate collectively in anti-corruption campaigns. Groups provide a safe space for women to discuss and debate issues that affect them and enable women to safely participate in anti-corruption activities. By empowering women and giving them a voice, the projects enabled them to stand up to corrupt officials and demand their entitlements. By enabling women to join the anti-corruption crusade, the projects tapped a resource that may otherwise have remained dormant.
With training and support, women emerge as leaders and deliver robust results. Results of several PTF projects show that building the capacity of women to access information, training them to be monitors and equipping them with essential skills are activities that facilitate women to emerge as leaders. From the projects analyzed, it was observed that when the project is led or handled by women in a sector that directly impacts the daily lives of women, the projects were largely successful. The passion, focus and determination of women leaders could be seen across countries and can be identified as the main reason for success of the projects. Thus, the global fight against corruption could be significantly bolstered by identifying and training women for leadership roles and highlighting their stories.
Women as third party monitors: Women must be legitimate participants in public debates, power delegation processes and performance assessments. From the experience of NJMO, CFAR and Paraspara Trust, it is evident that apart from participating in and leading anti-corruption initiatives, women can also act as third party monitors. Since corruption in service delivery, especially in the health sector, affects women disproportionately, encouraging and equipping them to oversee the processes is essential.
PTF has learned that women’s unique experience affords unique knowledge on the challenges and solutions to address corruption, particularly at the local level. Citizen led anti-corruption projects that we’ve supported have adopted the change model below that has produced positive impacts for women’s rights, equality, empowerment and overall well being. We now seek to scale-up successful projects, pilot new initiatives, and share lessons learned on women’s involvement in anti-corruption intransitives. For more information on how to get involved, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.