Poster Paper: Gender and Participation in Community Development Projects: Evidence from the Decentralized Climate Funds Project in Senegal

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Hannah Patnaik, Syracuse University

The ‘Decentralizing Climate Funds’ (DCF) project, currently active in Kaffrine, Senegal and Mopti, Mali, is a component of the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) program. The project aims to support locally led climate change adaptation by enabling communities to access funding for investments in public goods that build resilience. The goal of the project is to ensure that the community is coming together to deliberate and decide on resilience building priorities, as it is the people themselves that are most aware of their specific needs. This study aims to increase knowledge and understanding specifically related to the participation and decision-making power of the women in Kaffrine, using their involvement with the DCF project as a case study. This study will contribute to the sparse evidence from the field on whether community participation in development policies empowers women or merely maintains the inequitable status quo while claiming full participation and equal input from all stakeholders (Cornwall, 2000).

In the last few decades, there has been a reorientation of mainstream development practice from the disempowering top-down approach to one that is rooted in participation, empowerment, and inclusion. The key objective of the approach is to incorporate local knowledge and preferences into government or private agencies’ decisions, with the expectation that this will lead to better-designed development projects and policies, and improvements in the targeting of development aid (Mansuri and Rao, 2012). One of the critical issues with this approach is that of power within participatory processes and who can access it: specifically, who actually gets to participate?

In this study, I employ both a quantitative and qualitative methodological approach to understand the factors that encourage or inhibit women’s participation and influence in community decision making. I use three waves of survey data collected through the DCF project to analyze the determinants of women’s participation. I run an ordered probit model to identify the characteristics of women who perceive themselves to be more involved in the development and decision-making of the community. I supplement this analysis with extensive interviews conducted in Kaffrine, Senegal with women in villages that have received an investment from the DCF project to understand the reality of their participation through the process.

Understanding and identifying the factors that influence women’s participation in this context will help improve development policies to ensure that the needs of everyone in the community are being identified and met. Finding successful ways to encourage active participation of women is important as incorporating diversity of experience and needs is necessary for holistic economic development.