The Bilqees Initiaitive was a program in Yemen delivered by Partners for Democratic Change and Partners Yemen designed to disseminate key development messages; mobilize a cadre of influential women leaders; activate a wide network of social volunteers to create a network of female communicators and leaders to raise awareness about development issues and contribute to enhancing stability.
An evaluation of this work to date has shown that the project has been effective in the achievement of its stated
program objectives. In particular there is strong evidence that a communication network has been established that has positively influenced stability in the targeted governorates of Marib and Shabwa . Ninety-eight percent of the women participants who were interviewed for the evaluation, agreed that the program was effective in its training and capacity building activities and later follow up administrative support for the women training and micro outreach events. Specific outcomes included:
- Women leaders who are ready and willing to lead change in their communities and to bring a constructive approach to dealing with conflicts and community development.
- Communities that are more “aware” and more “open” and willing to cooperate with outside organizations and undertake change.
- A large number of women (127,000) with an increased awareness of health and development topics that have brought about improvements to their lives.
- Informal groups that can lobby and advocate for development causes (women, youth and social leaders).
- A new awareness of outstanding needs and gaps that were previously ignored.
There were many case study examples of women who started small enterprises following their involvement in the program; examples of where women had taken the lead in addressing environmental issues in their communities like protecting sources of water and properly collecting and disposing of household waste to avoid contamination and pollution of the community’s environment; where women had returned to education (one group of women started a neighborhood adult literacy school and they currently have 55 women enrolled); improved health through higher rates of vaccination; examples of women resolving long standing conflicts between families or neighbors as a
result of the training women received on conflict resolution; decreased rates of early marriage and improved self-confidence; and agreement on lowering the dowry price for marriage.
Our challenge now is to secure further funding to continue projects like this in Yemen and the wider Middle East and North Africa region. The plight of women in this region has been well documented in a recent World Bank report (2013 March), Missing Voices: Gender Equality in the Arab World(http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/03/14/missing-voices-gender-equality-in-the-arab-world
This type of program is still needed. Further work needs to be done. We have currently raised $5,962 out of a total $50,000 target. The women themselves requested a continuation and expansion of the program to areas not presently covered, and to include additional topics for awareness raising, targeting larger audiences and involving more men and youth. We are committed to finding a way to do this and with your continued support we believe we will achieve this.
Thank you for your generous donations.
Nick Oatley, Chief Operating Officer, Partners for Democratic Change.