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The Vrinda Handbook


MDGs presentations
Countries presentations



Episode 3 - MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women


Issue 5:
Do developed and developing nations agree on the road map for global development? 
Is there a difference in the way different cultures see "development"?








To be recorded



Stefano asks  e Vrinda replies



Defining Development


Il testo sotto va riscritto e ripreso come forma di dialogo tra Vrinda e Stefano



Stiamo raggiungendo gli obiettivi ?



Parlare qui che non lavora solo la UN ma tanta gente diversa con tante storie diverse



The MDGs today provide a framework for the UN system and for synergizing the various international cooperation activities in a coherent worldwide effort.  The MDG targets have become an integral part of Global indicators for development.  Each year, an annual report is prepared that assesses the progress made by member states in fulfilling the pledges they made. 

Although the UN has a key role to play in addressing the challenges and in tracking the global progress towards these goals, it is National Governments that have the responsibility to achieve the MDG targets. Thousands of programs and projects have been operational, involving a large amount of human and technical resources. However, the resources and efforts have proved to be inadequate; and the progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals has been uneven and slow. Many countries finally did not allocate the resources that they had committed to. And the  international media did not pay much attention to the MDGs, so  the general public is little informed about them.  There is a growing concern that many targets will not be achieved within the set deadline of the year 2015 



To be recorded






Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Most women of the world obtain much less education and earn much less money than  men. Women are much less represented than men at political and managerial levels.

The MDG 3 tackles gender inequality and promotes the empowerment of women.

Global data shows that the poorer the country, the higher the gender inequality.

In the world today, two out of every three illiterate persons are women.

Gender equality is a determining factor of development. What is needed is to create a virtuous circle of empowered women who generate stronger and healthier families which set the stage for more prosperous and just societies. 







India - Weaving Empowerment - Almora 

 Cameras cannot capture the beauty of the Himalayan peaks that gradually emerge from the mist as we climb up the winding roads towards Almora. Almora is the headquarters of one of the six districts in the Kumaon mountain range of the Indian Himalayan State of Uttarakhand. Women living in these Himalayan mountain ranges are known for their hard work and traditional weaving and knitting skills.

We climbed these mountains to meet Mukti Datta and a group of women living in villages around Almora. In 1989, Mukti established, along with these women, a non-government organisation, called the “Jan Jagran Samiti”, or the Committee for People’s Awakening. The organisation helped women organise themselves into a group that could potentially earn a stable livelihood by applying improved techniques to their traditional skills of weaving and knitting. What started out as a small source of earning for a small group of three women now brings together 800 women in a shareholding cooperative called the Panchachuli Women Weaver's Cooperative. Women who live far away from Almora are also given the opportunity to work from home. Jan Jagran Samiti also opened day care centres and primary schools for these women shareholders so that they could dedicate time to their work. Today, around a thousand children attend these schools.

800 of these women are being trained so that a wider network of skilled women can start earning an income right from their homes. The cooperative has built a weaving centre where more than 300 village women sit and weave together. It has also bought a bus that picks the women up from their villages every morning and drops them back to their homes every evening. Now, the cooperative has sale outlets, two smaller centres in the region and outlets abroad.

Instead of the back-breaking jobs that they used to do, women from remote villages of the Himalayas have now learned new skills, have started contributing to the family income, and have entered the export market with their products. Today, their communities respect them and their husbands share in the daily household chores. Families in the remote Himalayas are now able to enjoy better standards of life.

Through solidarity, commitment and perseverance, the cooperative has grown by leaps and bounds. Being organised and earning an income has lifted women out of poverty and social exclusion and has brought them into the political arena as active participants in decisions that affect their lives.

Today, for the first time ever, women weavers are a strong group with political leverage. They influence local politics and support other women in demanding for their rights.



To be recorded


Defining Development

 To be recorded

In spite of being a commonly used term, “development” is not at all a univocal term. Different perspectives of development often generate political oppositions and divisions.

Although intellectually out-dated, the terms "development" and "growth" are still widely used as equivalent terms, especially by media. However, most people agree that growth which is not organic, spontaneous and balanced cannot be called “development”.

We always need to make the effort to understand the perspectives of others and make sure that we accord common meanings to the words we use. So, when we step into the field of “cooperation for development”, we need to promote social dialogue on development .

 There is a growing global consensus that social and economic development requires a balanced mixture of freedom and order, of spontaneity and rule, of solidarity and competition. However there is much disagreement of what should come first (freedom or order?) and where to set the balance (more spontaneity or more governance?).

see also Development Mantras

To be recorded




C.B. Rao,  writer and a former United Nation officer







Sierra Leone - Women as Entrepreneurs - Petifu Chain


We are in the village of Petifu Chain in the Tonkolili district of Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa that, in 2002, emerged from a decade of bloody civil war.


Ranked 180 among 187 countries on the human development index and ranked at the bottom of the gender development index, poverty and unemployment are the major challenges for Sierra Leone. Although the country has been experiencing substantial economic growth in recent years, nearly half the government revenue still comes from donors.


Women constitute 52% of the Sierra Leonean population and are most often heads of households and the primary earners for their families. Female genital mutilation, early motherhood, low literacy levels, high maternal mortality, sexual and gender-based violence, and laws discriminating against women are just some of the plights of the Sierra Leonean women. 


Women mostly work in petty trading and subsistence farming. Low literacy levels and the lack of skills hampers women from accessing better income earning opportunities. Women comprise over 90% of the country’s economic producers, providing 55% of the agricultural labour force and nearly 8% of wage employees in the non-agricultural sector. Yet, they cannot own land and whatever user rights they may acquire, are lost upon the death of their husbands.


The women of the village of Petifu Chain decided to change the course of their destinies. They established a women's group called Myogbo. In Temne, the local language, Myogbo means "Just try and God will give you". This is exactly what the women’s group is doing in cooperation with Concern Worldwide, a European non-government organisation working in Sierra Leone since 1996. Concern helps the Myogbo woman’s group to organise itself into Self Help Groups so that they could take small loans to start small businesses in the agricultural sector. Concern provides training to self help groups in basic business skills, book keeping, and advises women on updated techniques, equipment, market linkages, etc. so that women are able to manage their businesses successfully and earn a decent living.


Now, the women own small businesses that process, package and market farm produce. They are able to provide better nutrition for their children and are also able to fund their education and health care. Women have improved their lives and those of their families and have become agents of change in their communities.




    Manoj Kumar Country Director of Concern Worldwide 

Change and tradition: When development takes place, the traditions themselves start to change. But local traditions and indigenous knowledge could be the answer to many problems we are facing today. Indeed changing tradition doesn’t mean development. Naturally some tradition must be stopped, like female genital mutilation, widely practised in Sierra Leon, for instance. This means that we don’t have to accept blindly all of the tradition.





Defining Development

 To be recorded


Development activities are often carried out with the presumption that our vision about development is universally valid. The result is a lack of understanding about others' perspectives on development that might lead to low cooperation effectiveness or even cooperation failure. One of the most important benefits arising from successful international cooperation projects is the expansion of people's outlook on development. (See definition of “ International cooperation for development ").

When we talk of "development" in the human and social context, we refer to a course of action that integrates two processes: a change for the better and a preservation of a cultural identity and its value system. A social change that is implemented independently of the value system of the persons whose environment is changed is not development. And neither is the preservation of an old value system, independent of the aspirations of the new generations, development. Using another terminology, we could say that “development” is when there is synergy and creative communication between “progress” (moving ahead) and “tradition” (taking forward one’s values).



    Daničle Smadja 
  • What are the important areas of cooperation between India and the EU?    We have many types of project, but for simplicity let me divide them in three. At first we have budget support at the central level; this is the case for education and health. The second type is at the state level by budget support, providing technical assistance and transferring and exchanging our practices; and we have two state programs right now, one with Rajasthan in the field of water and with Chhattisgarh in health and education. At both, the national and state level, we are not just signing the cheque, we are present in the policy making by helping them with our experience, technical assistance and our models on how to go about their policies. The third level is supporting financially the civil society organizations; we regularly have projects with them. We also try and organize the best synergies and compliment the three levels of cooperation. As an example, when we work with NGOs in education we will target the population which remains outside the main stream services, like the tribal population or remote communities.

  • What is your opinion on aid coming from an other country and an other culture?  There has been a lot of discussions over the last 5-7 decades about aid. The most important element is to do what the government of the country we are engaged in wants to do and has decided to do. We cannot impose policies, we have to support the national policies of the country and respect the obligations of the donor country. This doesn't mean that whatever they do we sign the cheque.   Every country has to take charge of the development of their country. The effectiveness of aid then comes from the capacity of the donor country to contribute to the national policies and strategies and to make sure that whatever we are contributing to has a chance of success. Then only we can bring an added value by filling the financial gap (even if on a small scale), bring expertise, experience and policies we use in Europe. You are with the WHAT and i'm with the HOW... and until you don't know WHAT there is no way i can help you on HOW to do it.

  • EU commitment towards Global Partnership for Development    The EU was very committed towards the MDGs when they were put together in the UN. What we have in mind with this Global Partnership for Development is that our development assistance should always go hand-in-had and support the national strategies and policies of the country.&nbsp. We come with the projection of our values, the european values, but we don't come with our own model to impose; we come to support.   Why do we do it India? India has 400 million people under poverty, this represents a quarter of the entire population around the world. Europe cannot turn a blind eye to that. 


    Dilip Kumar is the Founder Member of Pravah. He was interviewed on the 3rd of April 2010 by Fausto Aarya De Santis  





Lebanon- MDG 3- Be (Maya) that change 




 REPERT  3 -  Vrinda Intro  to WIKI chapters    07:35- 10:21


Development Assistance as Social Education


Change" is a key term for those who work in international cooperation. A specific "change" is always the intended objective of a cooperation action. Development workers always ask themselves and the project stakeholders the question: how can we produce a change? What kind of "change" do are they looking for? How can we change human relationships from a zero sum game to a positive sum game?
To build a school where earlier there was no school is relatively easy. But how can one bring in dialogue where earlier there was rhetoric and mistrust? How is it possible to induce a cooperative climate where earlier there was conflict and competition and exclusion? Is it possible to change human relationships from a zero sum game to a positive sum game?
Those who work in International cooperation say that the change they want to induce in the people they assist is not a transformation of their values; it is not a conversion. On the contrary, they want their project beneficiaries to be better able to choose in accordance with their values. For development workers, development assistance is empowerment. Like educators do for individuals, development workers do for communities.
Development workers help in "leading out" human potentialities. And using the famous words of Socrates, they act as midwifes in assisting women to deliver. Development actions are therefore a concrete form of social maieutics.
All cooperation projects run the risk of being implicit or explicit forms of coercive socialization aimed at making the counterparts abandon their values and adopt the values of their masters. But these cooperation projects also bring along with them new opportunities for education when they are authentic, i.e. a service given to the beneficiaries with the objective of enlarging the horizons of opportunities, possibilities and choices.
Whenever we have a "community" that is the intended target of "social change", we always run the risk of imposing values that are alien to these community. This risk is particularly high when the target community comprises of marginalized and voiceless persons; and the educator is acting on behalf of more powerful and richer communities, as is usually the case with development assistance projects.
Development experts take a number of mitigation measures against potential risks based on dialogue processes that enable people to participate in all steps of planning, implementing and evaluating development actions. These are risks that educators know they face in their job of trying to make others adapt to their pre-determined plans rather than as an education, enabling people to lead out their human potential in harmony with their own values.








Syria - Village Business Incubator - Latakkia

This is the village of Ein El Tineh in the Lattakia Governorate situated along the North western coast of Syria. Lattakia has an extensive agricultural hinterland and exports cereals, cotton, fruits, eggs, vegetable oil, pottery, and tobacco. Although the capital city of Lattakia is an economic hub with a port and a manufacturing centre that deals in metals, machinery and chemicals, the province of Lattakia is one of the poorest in the country.


With many men migrating to urban areas for work or getting employed in the state armed forces, women in this province, as in many rural communities in Syria, become de facto heads of households. Despite 77% of the Syrian women being literate, they neither have access to economic resources nor the skills required to become earning members of their households. Women in Syria comprise only 17% of the labour force. Nearly one fifth of the economically active women in Syria comprise the invisible workforce within family businesses or farming activities. Only a few women are self-employed or owners of businesses.


In order to provide business skills to women and help them start new businesses, AIDOS, an Italian non-government organisation, partnered with a Syrian organisation called FIRDOS or the Fund for Integrated Rural Development of Syria in order to establish a Village Business Incubator in the Ein El Tineh village. AIDOS promotes and defends women’s rights, dignity and the freedom of choice. It has been working in Syria since 2005 for the economic empowerment of women and for improving their health and social well being.


A project funded by the European Union, the Village business incubator in the Ein El Tineh village is a service and support centre for the development of women’s micro and small enterprises in nine villages of the province of Lattakia.


Alessia, who heads the AIDOS team in the Middle East, accompanied us to Lattakia and introduced us to the project. She informed us that the central pillar of the business incubator project is the economic potential for rural women in running small businesses. The income that women earn from their own businesses helps them gain confidence in themselves and provide better health care and education for their families.


The Village Incubator project has directly benefitted at least 500 women heads of households by providing them training in basic business skills, technical support for business start-ups, linking their businesses to markets and end-users, creating a network among women entrepreneurs so that they can exchange knowledge and experience and have a greater collective bargaining power.


Having their own business was a dream for many women in the Ein El Tineh village. Their dreams have now become reality. They have started small new businesses, like producing eco-friendly handicrafts, dairy processing, professional tailoring and weaving units. Not only do women earn an income now, they also hire their neighbours to work with them. They have gained new self-confidence. They participate actively in community activities. And above all, they have become agents of change in their communities and in their families.





Riflessioni generali sulla Siria



Backstage - Lebanon 2 - Beirut


Viaggio di ritorno in moto








Syria - Fostering Social and Economic Empowerment among Women 


Story on “Fostering Economic Empowerment among Women” is included in the Syria Skill project





More reflections on Women rights   Syria - NGO - Lola

What is your profession and why did you chose it
About Zenobia
Difference between the Women in Zenobia's Era and Now





How do we communicate the work in progress for the rights without falling into pre-conceived stereotypes?

 Viaggio di ritorno in moto





Syria - Damascus Art Centre


Damascus Art Centre - Interview curator art centre





The Vrinda project approach:  keeping the plurality of the points of view without establishing a final “truth”.  Is it possible in television?  Is it better done with the Web media?



 Backstage - India - Editing Studio 





 Europe - Development Education

Lecture on Sustainable Development
Lecture on sustainable development - What can and what cannot grow
Lecture on sustainable development - Paradoxes of GDPs measurement. What is growth?

Debate on Sustainable Development
Debate on Sustainable Development - Intervention of del Senagele (in french)
Debate on Sustainable Development - Indonesian delegate - Development is defined by other people
Debate on Sustainable Development - EU Officer - Talking about economic indicators





Additional interviews that can be used for this episode:



Jean Drčze   s a development economist teaching and working in India. He was interviewed in Allahabad, India on the 23rd February 2011

see full interview:  


Jyoti Sapru was interviewed by Fausto Aarya De Santis in May 2010  in New Delhi, India

see full interview:



Julian Parr,  Regional Manager, South East Asia for Oxfam GB.

What is your perception of aid coming from an other culture an other country?  It's a challenge, isn't it. You have to be very sensitive on how much you challenge and how much you assist countries to achieve MDGs. I think it is how you approach... is about dialogue, about communication, it is certainly not taking a dictatorial or accusatory attitude towards any country or nature.

Do you think that local communities have say in how the aid is used?   That is one of the biggest challenge, I would say. We get it badly wrong in occasion... because if you want to be inclusive and genuine then you need to work at very grass root level and you need to do you over a very long period of time because you want to include the voices of the most disfranchised. To get that authentic voice takes trust, takes time, takes investment... and very often agencies don't have that length of time to achieve the scope of goals they want to. The challenge of listening and being inclusive of community voices means that you have a much stronger solution to their problem... and I genuinely believe that all communities can actually find their own solution if you create the right space around them, the enabling environment and create the resources to make change, they can often come up with the right answers.

  • 16 - Do you think cultures should dialogue more for better understanding or dialogue less to preserve their cultural identity?   I don't tend to define cultures as nation state. I look at it from the language that is being talked between the private sector and civil society or government. There is a stronger sense of cultures between organization than between population.   I have colleagues writers and journalists that believe that Indian values are being eroded by modernity and access to information. They are not! India has got the ability to absorbs culture and make it work for itself, it doesn't try to adapt, it adapts and it does not change its value system... and I think that is very healthy.


see full interview:


Montek Singh Ahluwalia is the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Government of India. He was interviewed in Delhi on the second week of April 2010 by Fausto Aarya De Santis
  • Do you think cultures should dialogue more for better understanding or dialogue less to preserve their cultural identities?   The concept of an identity that is static is a huge mistake. Any effort to preserve identity is backward looking, static and frozen. The global environment is increasing the possibilities for countries and cultures to interact and i would strongly in favor of anything which increases that interaction.  But i'm not a supporter of the idea of all cultures merging into a some pre-digested-homogenized-mush. I would like to see an interaction of cultures where cultures absorb things from outside, contribute things to the outside but yet remain distinctly different. How do you get the balance is the issue in my view. 

see full interview:



Zulfiquar Haider is the National Programme Coordinator for the Planning Commission (GoI) - UN, Joint Programme on Convergence. He was interviewed in Delhi on the 13th of April 2010 by Fausto Aarya De Santis

Given the kind of disparity that exists in the world, the rise in consciousness globally and if we recognize that humanity is one... it is not really a choice to respond to a situation which is not acceptable to us. Owing up to this responsibility has to be a case, it is not the case of making a choice. Yes, there is a need of aid and the mechanism of international aid has its place in the world.

The challenge with international aid is accepting a plural world, where we accept that others may have a different take on what is desirable and what is development for them. Or are we going to continue to say that development is catching up with the West and making them like 'Us'.

This is not only a western problem it is a problem all over the world. Even in India, every group thinks that there way is the right way and somebody elses ' way is the distorted way. And is the worst situation it is not just different, it becomes the wrong way.

There is now quite a degree of understanding that aid should not come with too much riders. But i would not say that this has stopped, the prevalent practice continues top be the same.


see full interview:



Rajendra K. Pachauri , Nobel Peace Prize winner, is the Director General of the The Energy and Resources Institute, TERI. He was interviewed in New Delhi, India on the second week of February 2011 by Stefano De Santis

Rajandra K. Pachauri - Development as Integration and Out-of-Fashion Development Assistance

  • Rajendra K. Pachauri says that the most important part of these (millennium development) goals is essentially to create an environment where development can take place and poverty can be eliminated. Development is not confined only to provision of water, fuels, etc in a very disconnected manner. Development requires integration. This is where we need to make a difference. (Takes the example of the environment and says that the poor are dependent and interlinked with nature, so protecting the environment is an essential part to the removal of poverty.) When the MDGs were formulated we expected that there will be large scale development assistance which will take place, but that did not happen. Development assistance appears to have gone out of fashion. But what we can do through the MDGs is that the national governments are sensitized about poverty alleviation, but in an integrated approach and that there must be coordination among the various departments.   Development is not confined only to provision of water, fuels, etc in a very disconnected manner. Development requires integration. This is where we need to make a difference. (Takes the example of the environment and says that the poor are dependent and interlinked with nature, so protecting the environment is an essential part to the removal of poverty.)   We need a complete change in approach. What you really have to do is to create knowledge at every level of policy making and implementation, right down to the grass-root level, whereby people understand that you cannot function in cellos. Development can only be ensured provided that there is integration of all the actions.  The sum of the parts (separate actions, cellos) is much lower than the sum of doing all these things together (integrated action)  Even when it comes to the MDGs, we have these identified goals but they actually overlap; you cannot deal with them separately. This is where International and National governments have failed in bringing about proper integration across all the MDGs. So if we are serious about meeting the Goals it is essential for us to bring about a complete re-orientation of the way these goals are being implemented.  When the MDGs were formulated we expected that there will be large scale development assistance which will take place, but that did not happen. Development assistance appears to have gone out of fashion. But what we can do through the MDGs is that the national governments are sensitized about poverty alleviation, but in an integrated approach and that there must be coordination among the various departments.

  • Why does development assistance appear not to be in fashion any longer?   There is a certain level of selfishness. People believe that they have to consume more and more, therefore their income is meant only for consumption. Some people are also very insular, they feel they are living on an island. They don’t realize that if something goes wrong in one part of the world it affects everyone one else. We are living on a world where we are all resident of spaceship earth. The desire to see that we must help our brothers, other countries, even on the part of countries which have benefited from colonialism, has vanished.   There is also a lack of leadership. There are very few leaders who say we have to help the countries which are poor, the communities which are poor. Today the distinction between rich and poor and becoming much larger and to my mind that is a dangerous situation.  When I had the privilege of accepting the Nobel Peace Price on behalf of the IPCC I used the phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which is Sanskrit for saying, this universe is one family. I think that feeling has vanished.


see full interview: