Founded in 1945, CARE’s original action plan has evolved from sending care packages overseas to funding and supporting projects that will deliver lasting change. CARE are focused on many different sectors include gender and gender-based violence, responding to emergencies and crises, supporting sustainable agricultural practices, encouraging education for women and girls, developing microfinance systems and other livelihood tools, and all the while promoting good maternal health and supporting those who live with HIV & AIDS. CARE works in 95 countries and their network of efforts is promoting sustainable, dignified change.
The following excerpts are taken from CARE’s website and adapted to explain more fully their different programs and methodologies.
CARE views women’s empowerment through the lens of poor women’s struggles to achieve their full and equal human rights. In these struggles, women strive to balance practical, daily, individual achievements with strategic, collective, long-term work to challenge biased social rules and institutions.
Therefore, CARE defines women’s empowerment as the sum total of changes needed for a woman to realize her full human rights – the interplay of changes in:
- Agency: her own aspirations and capabilities,
- Structure: the environment that surrounds and conditions her choices,
- Relations: the power relations through which she negotiates her path.
Women’s empowerment is a process of social change, and CARE only captures part of its richness when they assess the process of empowerment in terms of its outcomes.
Furthermore, the nature of gender power relations, and the triggers for empowerment, differ from culture to culture and context to context. No standard list of impact indicators can be relevant in all places and times, for all women. For that reason, the SII requires each research team to build a process for exploring gender power relations in context, with the affected stakeholders – both to ground-proof relevant indicators, and to “fill in the spaces” with insight about how changes come about, and what role, if any, CARE’s work has played.
“However, we need a place to start, and that is what the SII’s global women’s empowerment framework tries to offer. It focuses on concrete outcomes for which we can hold ourselves accountable, and organizes the diversity of women’s realities into a shared framework. In each context, we can start to focus our work by linking women’s own definitions and priorities for empowerment to 23 key dimensions of social change which have been shown to be widely relevant to women’s empowerment across many studies and contexts.”
Ending poverty requires addressing the power inequalities between women and men, girls and boys that underpin gender-based violence.
CARE is committed to supporting the empowerment of poor women and girls in their challenges to enjoy happy and healthy lives and to change the contexts in which they live, learn, work and raise families.
This includes the organization’s dedication to working with women and men in all settings to confront gender-based violence, which affects at least one in three women worldwide.
CARE’s holistic approach to gender-based violence combines prevention with comprehensive service delivery, and addresses root causes driving various forms of gender-based violence and gender discrimination.
In more than 40 countries around the world, CARE works with issues of GBV, including providing critical medical, legal, psychosocial and protection services to people experiencing violence (primarily women and girls), and provides local activists with assistance and support to link with others to provide case management to survivors, advocate for improved policies and laws, raise awareness and change local norms that perpetuate violent behavior.
Resources and tools for gender equality and gender-based violence–
- Gender toolkit
- Gender, equity, and diversity training
- Gender integration research
- Challenging social norms
CARE is currently assisting with emergency relief in Yemen, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and the Balkans. Every year they are providing support for 12 million people affected by crises and emergencies.
In some countries, the Pathways program is being used. The Pathways approach is based on a global theory of change that addresses the underlying causes of poverty and women’s exclusion in agriculture in each of the countries of implementation: Mali, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, India and Bangladesh as well as related initiatives in Ethiopia. Across these contexts, CARE has identified five common and closely interrelated domains of change that must be impacted to achieve the Pathways goal:
- Capacity. Women need the knowledge, skills, self-confidence and conviction required to succeed in agriculture, business and their roles as individuals and members of their households and communities.
- Access. Women need access to and control over productive assets and services including land, water, tools, inputs and both financial and extension services.
- Productivity. Women need the opportunity, knowledge and skills required to enhance the productivity of their land through sustainable agriculture.
- Household Influence. Women farmers need enhanced influence over household decision making, particularly decisions related to the household division of labor, the use of household income and decisions affecting the food women and their families prepare and consume.
- Enabling Environment. Both formal policies and informal cultural norms and expectations have significant impact on women’s potential. Both must be acknowledge and affected to achieve household resilience and women’s empowerment.
CARE’s work in health covers many subject areas: maternal health, clean water, family planning, child survival, and supporting those living with HIV & AIDS. Like so many of their other programs, many of the health programs focus on women. Things like collecting water and having good sanitation for girls in school helps women free up more hours of their day for income-generating activities and keeps girls in school, especially after menstruation begins.
More on Integrated health solutions.
CARE understands that so many girls want to be in school but there are often barriers to attendance. Working to mitigate these conflicting factors, CARE supports girls that want to learn.
In addition to promoting schooling for girls, CARE also conducts special youth-centered workshops to build skills and to ensure access to healthcare and other services.
“We recognize that poverty is inextricably linked to social marginalization and discrimination – and our experience has shown that simply providing young people with a few skills, then expecting them to conquer systemic injustices is not effective and does not lead to their empowerment. Rather, large-scale and sustainable change requires addressing laws, policies, gender norms and social and cultural barriers that stand in the way. By creating an enabling and equitable environment where young people can exercise their skills, knowledge and leadership, they are able to step into new roles and lead the change themselves.”
In addition to promoting the education of primary school girls, CARE engages with a more holistic education program for mothers. The SHOUHARDO program in Bangladesh had remarkable success in seeing a 28% reduction in childhood stunting in less than four years- not because of direct food aid, but because of women’s economic and social empowerment programs. These programs were mostly self-help groups that allowed a women’s-only space to discuss problems unique to women. This increased economic performance and resulted in women having more money to feed their families.
CARE’s microfinance associations, the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), are built entirely on member savings and interest from loans; they receive no direct capital investment from CARE. However, their members do receive a year of intensive training from CARE in group dynamics, governance, and in money management. This training enables the groups to become self-supporting, to flourish and even to establish and train other groups. The VSLA approach has unique features that make it a powerful tool both for broadening financial inclusion and for development:
- It is simple and easily adapted to illiterate group members.
- It promotes group solidarity and learning, and establishes a vehicle for addressing community development issues.
- It relies on no infusions of outside funds.
- It requires no physical infrastructure.
CARE has found that VSLAs meet the need for savings and credit at the very bottom rung of the world’s economic ladder. They create a platform from which the poor can advance to receive the more sophisticated financial services that they inevitably need as their resources, skills and confidence grow.
Additionally, CARE is helping local farmers build capacity and find connections to gain market access and leverage.
It doesn’t stop there
CARE doesn’t just create and execute supportive, community-led programs. Their feedback loops are inclusive and accessible: CARE teams are easy to reach and communicate with. If the community knows that CARE’s program isn’t working, CARE wants to improve their programs with community feedback. CARE also has community scorecards: where the community assess their service providers. This information helps CARE build better programs and ascertain what’s working and what’s not. CARE also has a participatory performance tracker that allows communities to monitor their own community organizations as well as inform CARE about actors that could be doing better, whether that’s local governments or CARE itself.
CARE has built a reputation of long-term, measured work: sticking with communities for the long haul and creating last change.
If you’re interested, here is a video of Emily Janoch, Senior Technical Advisor at CARE explaining more about CARE and how they work.