Achieving Gender Equality Through Challenging Social Norms: BRAC’s Polli Shomaj Program

Can NGOs implement rights-based gender equality programs when donor focus on the area is shrinking? This paper explores how one development program has made strategic choices incorporating the interests of multiple stakeholders, addressing donor interests while simultaneously addressing the needs of local communities. It examines the evolution of BRAC’s Polli Shomaj, a rural women’s civil society organisation designed to challenge power structures through collective action in rural Bangladesh. It draws on interviews with program staff and existing program literature to find that over time, BRAC leadership has narrowed its program focus to shed its broad transformative agenda to focus solely on gender equality through a combination of service delivery and rights-based approaches. The paper suggests that while it is possible for NGOs to promote gender equality through a combination of rights-based and service-delivery approaches, greater focus is needed on challenging power structures to bring about lasting structural change.

Authors: Qayum, Nayma; Hassan; Mirza; Aziz, Syeda Salina
Type: Journal Article
Year: 2023