Silos are Sexist

March 8, 2017Author: John Coonrod, The Hunger Project

How rigid program design and clocks conspire to keep women from taking control of their own lives

As Locus members, we are committed to integrated programming, but why? And why does it seem to be such an uphill struggle in a world where the prevailing development paradigm is dominated by top-down, narrowly focused, short-term interventions?

The most important reason to pursue integrated programming is that it works for women. Women living in poverty suffer from time poverty. Want to invest in women’s literacy? Fine – but the women in the most severe poverty will not have time for it. They probably wouldn’t even have time to participate in projects designed to reduce time poverty.

Research shows that women can never escape poverty unless they have reliable, time-efficient access to a comprehensive package of public services, including health care, child care, water, sanitation.

Our own epicenter programs across in Africa, co-designed by the women who use them, are based strongly on the principle of co-location of services. Women can take their baby to the health center while their other kids are in the day care center, do their banking and participate in an improved farming workshop, all in a morning.

Epicenter Floor Plan, The Hunger Project

Why isn’t all development done this way? Perhaps because the same patriarchal mindset that tolerates exploitation and abuse of women originates from the same mindset that created the command-and-control bureaucracies which dominate development resources and planning. And I do mean “dominate.” Individuals employed in donor bureaucracies must demand accountability from ministry bureaucrats, who demand it of district functionaries, and down it goes to the poor front-line worker who has no flexibility to be directly accountable to the citizens, but only to the bureaucratic masters.

The very definition of feminism is that it is a movement to end sexist oppression, which is not limited to the relations between women and men, but also between classes, races, tiers of bureaucracies, and our relationship with the natural environment.

So – this International Women’s Day, and every day, we all must advocate for feminism. In every situation, we must analyze the barriers to human progress presented by patriarchy, listen to the people who face those barriers every day, and stand in solidarity with those committed to transforming the prevailing patriarchal power structures. Together we can create a future more consistent with meeting the real needs of people and our planet home.