One of the key roles of the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN)is to provide capacity building support to its member Rural Support Programmes (RSPs). Gender and Development (GAD) section of RSPN provides support to RSPs to ensure gender equality and mainstreaming in their organizational structures, programmes and projects. GAD section provides technical support for gender sensitisation and capacity building of staff, gender-focused analysis of development projects and programmes, hosts RSPs’ Gender Resource Group (GRG) and advocacy activities for gender mainstreaming and to seek opportunities to take forward the GAD agenda. New gender related initiatives. GRG is a platform through which new policies, laws, campaigns and interventions shared amongst RSPs.
RSPN has supported the creation of Gender Master Trainers within the RSPs, also supported the RSPs to create a cadre of male and female gender experts within the Local Support Organisations (LSOs). RSPs are using these Community Resource Persons (CRPs) for gender sensitization and mainstreaming awareness raising at the local level through the network of Community Organisations (CO), Village Organisations (VO) and LSO. RSPN has also supporting female staff members of RSPs to participate in different national and international capacity building courses.
RSPN is also working with RSPs to assess emerging priorities and needs of rural women and men. Based on these, new guidelines and new initiatives are started, e.g. alternative dispute resolution (ADR), legal literacy, peace building and conflict management, guidelines for gender implementation plan for LSOs, gender issues in emergency settings, etc.
RSPN’s gender policy reinforces the inclusion of excluded groups of rural communities in the development process, with a special focus on inclusion of the poor and women. Exclusion often leads to economic poverty, illiteracy, poverty of opportunity and lack of access to education and health facilities.. Many rural women are deprived of basic needs and entitlements as a result of patriarchal systems that exclude them from decision-making, asset-ownership and the ability to engage in activities outside their households.
During natural or man-made disasters, women tend to suffer disproportionately. Through the process of social mobilisation, rural poor women are empowered and they become more aware of their situation and what they as organised groups can to improve their lot. Rural women generally give priority to building up productive assets, income generation activities, skills enhancement, and improved access to education, health and sanitation for the benefit of their families and communities.
RSPN has particularly worked on the socio-economic empowerment of rural women through the Community Investment Fund (CIF).CIF is one of the most successful examples of women managing funds on their own to meet their own needs for financing income generation and asset-building activities. CIF primarily focuses on the poorest households through female COs by giving access to financial resources, while at the same time increasing their levels of empowerment, confidence, decision-making, and management skills. Members of COs are encouraged to mobilize their savings and use these for internal lending purposes and the creation of income-generating assets as they grow. Initially, RSPN invested Rs. 45 million in piloting CIF approaches in partnership with RSPs. After a successful third-party review of CIF, with the support from the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, government, and donors, CIF has been scaled up to 301 LSOs and 5,471VOs and the total amount of CIF with organised communities is now Rs. 2,492 million.
RSPN proudly celebrates important international and national women-related days i.e. international rural women’s day and National and international women’s Day at RSPN and RSPs, and participates in different national and international women’s rights campaigns. RSPN and RSPs have made conscious efforts to make the work environment conducive for women by adopting and implementation of“The Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace” Law within RSPN and RSPs.