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					Linda Mayoux         33348907-03f5-4fbd-beb2-7f1cef9a2c34.doc                              3/7/2010
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                                                                                       Linda Mayoux1

Contact details:

Mr Salah Ali, Programme Coordinator, Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise
Programme, Port Sudan

Or c/o ACORD Sudan, New Extension, Street 33, PO Box 986, Khartoum

Information is mainly compiled from:

Hadjipateras, A. ( 1996). ACORD Gender Research - Final report. London,

Hadjipateras, A. (1995). ACORD's Credit Scheme in Port Sudan. London, ACORD.

Leach, F. (2000). The Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise Programme (Sudan).
Brighton, University of Sussex, Institute of Education. This is part of a broader
programme of ESCOR-funded research on the impact of training programmes on
gender relations (!! Insert link to final report)

But the paper also makes use of a range of other documents as indicated in


The ACORD Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise Programme has been operating in
Port Sudan since 1984. The programme‟s main focus is the provision of Islamic
modes of credit to refugees and poor Sudanese living in the slum or deim areas of
Port Sudan, helping them to set up small enterprises principally in the informal
sector. From 1992 as a result of continuing funding difficulties the programme came
under considerable pressure from donors, particularly ODA-UK (now DFID), to
increase its financial and organisational sustainability. The programme shifted from
being a broad-based community development programme to a minimalist micro-
finance programme focusing on financial self-sustainability. This led not only to
changes in micro-finance policy but also a decrease in support for training. Since

 This paper is a revised version of a Case Study originally produced for UNIFEM. The author is very grateful to
Salah Ali, Roghaya Hamza, Fiona Leach and Angela Hadjipateras for their comments on an earlier draft. Any
errors of interpretation are however those of the author.
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1988 there has been a gender policy in accordance with that of the ACORD network.
Whilst this remains in place, funding for complementary services like enterprise
training has been cut.

The findings of two exploratory gender impact assessments using participatory and
qualitative methods, and statistical information on the target group from the
programme‟s own information system indicates that the way in which financial
sustainability is being implemented is having a negative effect on both poverty
targeting and women's empowerment. The gender impact assessments also point to
some of the complexities of using participatory and qualitative methods.


The ACORD Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise Programme has been operating
in Port Sudan since 1984. Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, is the main port in the
Sudan. Port Sudan had an estimated population of around 800,000 according to
the 1993 census, a doubling in size since ACORD started its programme in 1984.
The expansion of the population is due to a combination of factors, particularly
drought and famine in the Red Sea Hills area and the conflict in Eritrea. The
population comes from many different regions and ethnic groups including
particularly the Beja, the original inhabitants of the province; the Beni Amir and
Habab, nomadic animal husbanders from the Sudan/Eritrea border area; Barno,
Hausa and Fallata of West African origin; the Northern Sudanese and Nuba from
West Sudan.

Prot Sudan is surrounded by barren uncultivable land. The main source of male
formal sector employment is the port with trading being the main activity in the
town. The city is however in decline with decreasing volume of traffic on the port.
As elsewhere, the Structural Adjustment Programme has led to a rapid expansion
in the informal sector with increasing poverty and retrenchment of public sector
workers. 70% of the population is thought to be living in the deim or slum areas of
the town, which to a large extent correspond to the different social groupings. It is
estimated that 70% of the poor who are engaged in the informal sector are very

The main focus of the programme is the provision of Islamic modes of credit to
refugees and poor Sudanese living in the slum or deim areas, helping them to set up
small enterprises principally in the informal sector. From 1992 as a result of
continuing funding difficulties the programme came under considerable pressure
from donors, particularly ODA-UK (now DFID), to increase its financial and
organisational sustainability. Since 1994 the programme has adopted a minimalist
financial self-sustainability approach to micro-finance. From July 1984 to December
1998, a total of 22,626 individuals and groups were assisted by the programme of
whom 51% were women. In 1998 the programme had a projected organisational
self-sustainability index of 1.08 and financial self-sustainability index of 0.61. 2 The
programme had a 94% repayment rate in 1997.

 OSSI is programme income over programme expenditure and FSSI is programme income over programme
expenditure adjusted for inflation.
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2.1: Goal and target group

Since the inception of the programme the overall aim of the programme has been to:

          ‘improve the quality of life and future prospects for poor people living in
         the deim areas of Port Sudan through the provision of financial resources
         '(ACORD Port Sudan 1998).

Summary details of the programme are given in Box 1.

The programme‟s original target group was the refugee communities, mainly from
Eritrea, but was subsequently broadened to include all vulnerable groups. In
particular, the programme has targeted women (especially female headed
households), the aged, the displaced and other low income groups. Initially
programme documents stressed that the programme was aiming to reach the
poorest. From the mid-1990s, in response to evidence of failure to reach the poorest
groups and tensions between poverty reach and financial sustainability, the target
was modified to reaching the bottom 20-40% of the population. The programme
increasingly targeted women partly because of evidence of better repayment.

2.2 Activities: policies for financial sustainability and gender policy

The main focus of programme activities has been on credit for self-employment
and small business although credit has also been given for other purposes such
as housing and sanitation. In the 1980s and early 1990s the programme
developed a broad based urban/community development programme. The
programme has had a gender policy since the late 1980s. Then in 1994 the
adoption of the financial self-sustainability approach entailed a number of changes
in both the credit programme and implementation of gender policy.

Financial sustainability

Changes were introduced with respect to loan policies and procedures, structures
for participation, other programme activities and staffing structures as summarised
in Box 1.

Firstly changes in loan conditions were introduced to increase repayment and
revenues and decrease costs. The programme has been constrained in its ability to
increase interest rates and introduce a savings programme by Sudanese legislation.
However it has developed Islamic modes of finance in the form of Murabaha loans
and Musharaka loans 3. The programme increased repayment through focusing on
the types of loan and clients which experience showed to be most likely to repay with
least cost of supervision and administration. Group loans, repeat loans, Musharaka
loans and loans for income generation had better repayment levels. Group loans

    Murabaha loans have a fixed mark-up and Musharaka loans are profit-sharing.
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and repeat loans also entailed less administration. In addition clients taking repeat
loans because of their reliability and incentive to maintain a good record were also
useful in identifying other clients, chasing up late payers and acting as guarantor for
the new clients. The concern with repayment levels also led to an increasing
concentration on female clients who had better repayment performance than men.
In addition to this measures were taken to decrease the turnover time of the loan
fund and to increase its profitability through reducing the maximum loan repayment
period and encouraging clients to repay 25% of the loan back immediately. These
measures were accompanied by a significant injection of new capital to increase
economies of scale.

Secondly there was an increasing emphasis on client participation in an attempt
to combine the multiple aims of decreasing lending costs, increasing outreach to the
programme‟s target communities, fulfilling the programme's original mandate of
community empowerment and finally as a step towards eventual hand-over of credit-
related activities to community structures. As noted above there was an increasing
emphasis on group loans and by the end of 1997 62% of loans were delivered
through groups. Loan Advisory Committees (LACs) were also set up. These usually
consist of six members appointed by the community who facilitate the community‟s
access to loans, assist in the selection of clients for loans, carry out home visits and
follow up on repayments where required. Members work on a voluntary basis, their
motivation being the desire to work for the community, to increase their social status,
learn new skills and make it easier for themselves to access loans, or to obtain larger
loans (Hashim 1997). By 1998 there were 17 such committees channelling
approximately 30% of loans. The programme was most successful in developing
partnerships with market-based committees as opposed to those based on the
deims where people are less able to connect time to these activities.

Thirdly to reduce costs there was a reduction in the numbers of staff and
complementary services. Staff reduced from 49 in 1993 to 25 in 1995 and the
number of sub offices reduced from 8 to 5 over the same period. As a broad-based
community development programme in the 1980s and early 1990s ACORD provided
a range of formal training inputs, e.g. business skills, literacy, family planning, life
skills, nutrition and first aid. However, from 1994 all formal training was dropped
except where it increased the efficiency of the credit programme. Since 1997
ACORD has only run one formal training course: a six-month training in basic
business and management related skills 4, and more general awareness raising for
LAC members to help them fulfil their new role. Some of the formal training has been
taken over by ex-clients of ACORD who run it as a business, with ACORD providing
advice as required, for example on fundraising. Clients were also linked to
government-sponsored training programmes like those by the Social Welfare

Most training given by ACORD is now informal through meetings, seminars, or
workshops and work experience. For loan clients and groups initial business
appraisal and advice is provided by ACORD when clients take out loans and is a
condition of the loan agreement. To be eligible for a loan, the client must have a

 Book-keeping, record-keeping and marketing, group management, leadership training and community
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business plan which is then discussed with ACORD staff so as to assess its viability.
On-going business advice is provided to most loan recipients for the duration of the
loan period. Advice is also provided to community groups prior to their receiving
loans for community projects.

The programme has engaged in advocacy and attempted to link clients with the
formal sector, but with little success. The programme has also passed on members
of the communities in which it works but who are not considered credit-worthy to the
Zakat (Social Welfare) Department and other services.

Gender policy

The programme has had a gender policy since its inception, partly as a result of its
membership of the ACORD network which has had a gender policy since 1988 (See
App 1) and partly because of commitment on the part of local staff. As can be seen
from Box 1, the Port Sudan gender policy has not only the objective of increasing
women's access to income, but also increasing awareness of women's rights,
addressing gender inequalities within household communities and encouraging
women's collective action. In the 1980s and early 1990s as part of the broad-based
community development programme a number of strategies were developed.

Firstly, there is an emphasis on female-targeting. During the research before the
programme began, special consideration was given to assessing the employment
opportunities for women. A target of 50% women clients was set and as noted above,
this emphasis on targeting women was further reinforced following the adoption of the
financial self-sustainability approach because of their good repayment. Increasing the
number of women beneficiaries remains the priority of programme meetings and
discussions at both main and sub-office levels. Measures to increase women's
participation included use of women's gathering centres like women‟s markets, social
welfare and health centers to present the programme‟s services to women and women‟s
networks. More flexible lending policies were introduced for women. For example,
women business owners are not obliged to pay first installments or guarantees by
cheques, since their repayment habits proved to be dependable. Gender issues were
discussed as part of community applicants' meetings under the theme of equal
participation of both men and women in community affairs.

Secondly emphasis is placed on gender awareness raising among the staff and in
the communities where ACORD worked. From the mid-1980s the programme
adopted the equal opportunities principle of employing 50% female staff. In the mid-
1990s the Director was female which is particularly significant in the context of sharia

Thirdly priority was given to women for training and skills development, enhancing
the viability and sustainability of women‟s micro-enterprises, promoting women‟s
control over profit and their empowerment through assertiveness training and
leadership development. The programme also set up and supported Women‟s
Centres. By 1991 nineteen women‟s centres were established (ACORD, 1992).
These centres were not always associated with a building, but were spaces for
women to attend vocational training courses. These courses were mostly within
women's traditional range of activities, such as tailoring, handicrafts and nutrition,
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    though literacy and numeracy classes were also introduced. It was hoped that the
    centres would also encourage women to discuss their common experiences and
    strengthen group support and they were important in providing a space for women to
    legitimately meet within the public sphere.

    Finally, the programme put emphasis on research, which included research into the
    programme‟s impact on women. All statistics were gender-disaggregated and
    included in the Annual Reports.

    However the adoption of the financial self-sustainability approach in the mid-1990s
    had a number of negative effects on this gender policy:
     In the staff retrenchment of 1993, most of the job losses were women. Although
      female staff remain well represented at senior levels of the organisation, the
      reduced number of those working at the community level coincided with a drop in
      the proportion of female loan clients.
     Support for the Women's Centres was stopped.
     Despite attempts to ensure equal numbers of men and women on the LAC
      committees, men tend to dominate and women do not often have the capac ity to
      take on more active roles. This is having an impact on the ability of the
      programme to reach female clients.
     The introduction of new Islamic modes of finance meant a considerable amount of
      extra staff time was taken up explaining the new options rather than in other

    Then in 1996 in an attempt to address some of the potentially negative effects of
    these changes a number of specific strategies were adopted (Hadjipateras 1996):

   Enhancing women's participation in credit administration: special attention was
    paid to ensuring women's equal representation on the new local autonomous

      Additional support was given to encourage group-based lending and
    networking activities among women: including special encouragement for women
    in submitting group applications, because it had been found that owing to their lack
    of confidence and experience, women needed more encouragement than men.
    Emphasis was also put on development of formal and informal mutual support
    networks to build women's confidence, enable information exchange, and provide a
    forum for sharing problems and developing strategies for solving them.

   Enhancing gender awareness: both at community level and within the staff. In the
    case of the former, these took the form of dialogue and discussions using
    participatory methods, such as PRA. In the case of the latter, sustained training was
    provided in gender tools of analysis and their application.

   Continuation of formal and informal community development activities: in
    recognition of the importance of non-direct credit-related inputs in affecting women's
    participation in the programme and their business success:

    * One-to-one advice and encouragement for clients when staff make home visits.
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     * Outreach efforts to make contact with potential clients who, for one reason or
     another, have not sought ACORD assistance. This may include information
     gathering to investigate appropriate forms of support and meetings to discuss ideas
     for future co-operation.

   • Informal support for women's centres, which provide a wide range of training
      courses aimed at individual and group capacity-building, such as credit and business
      management, leadership, group organisation and vocational skills. This included
      help with fundraising, establishing links with other relevant institutions, advocacy,
      referrals and informal advice.

     The extra staff time required to encourage group-based lending among women was
     built into programme plans and staff job descriptions.
     Since the late 1980s the programme has had a gender policy to increase women's
     participation at all levels of the programme with an explicit focus on gender
     awareness and women's rights. Women now form 42% of professional staff. The
     programme also encourages the emergence and empowerment of local
     community structures, Loan Advisory Committees (LACS) in anticipation of
     eventual ACORD phase-out from the programme. In 1998 there were 17 LACs
     and women‟s membership of these was 55% ACORD 1998).


 interest rates and fees: the mark up on Mubaraha loans is 4% and 9% on Musharaka loans.
 emphasis on types of loan considered most likely to generate revenue at least cost:
particularly group loans, repeat loans, Musharaka loans and loans for income generation
 greater emphasis on clients who are considered most likely to have higher repayment
levels, including women
 decreasing turnover time of loan fund to reduce amount of idle funds
 injection of new capital into the revolving loan fund to increase economies of scale

• emphasis on group-based lending with individuals being encouraged to receive loans in
groups of three to five
• consultation about ways of electing community representatives
• participatory management structure where policy decisions are made through the
programme‟s development meetings and all decisions regarding clients‟ cases are taken
through group leader meetings.
• encouragement for community based organisations to take over the running of programme
activities to promote future sustainability and reach the ultimate objective of having a locally
run and managed programme.

 reduction in numbers of staff and sub-offices
 gradual withdrawal from formal training activities, apart from training for LAC leaders
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 encouraging community centres to continue such activities and promoting linkages with
    other training providers.
• retention of focus on informal training and business advice
• policy dialogue with the banks in Port Sudan to assist some successful clients in accessing
  financial resources from the formal banking sector.
• encouragement for other sectors of Port Sudan society who are in need of welfare to seek
  assistance from the Zakat and Takaftil departments.


Overall aims: To enhance women's immediate short-term material living conditions, as well
as their long-term potential for growth and development, by addressing the individual, cultural
and/or institutional barriers that restrict their access to and control over resources, thereby
perpetuating their poverty and low social status.
Specific Objectives:
• increasing women's self-confidence.
• enhancing women's income-generating capacity.
• enhancing women's leadership and management capacity.
• enhancing women's awareness of their rights.
• enhancing women's status within the household and the community
• encouraging group formation and collective action.

• Outreach to women: using women's gathering centres
Increasing access loan criteria and conditions have been relaxed to encourage more
• Gender awareness
• Prioritisation of women in training programmes
• Equal opportunities: principle of employing 50% female staff
• Gender disaggregation of statistics and reports to monitor the target of 50% women
clients and emphasis on gender issues in research programme.

Sources: Gasim 1995; Hadjipateras 1996; Port Sudan 1996


     3.1 Existing impact assessments

     There has been no detailed impact assessment of the programme. However
     anecdotal evidence of impact on both poverty reduction and women's empowerment
     is available from programme evaluations (e.g. Gibson 1995, Hashim 1997).

     There have been two small exploratory gender impact assessments which form the
     basis of what follows here:
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   a gender review using participatory methods was undertaken in 1995
    (Hadjipateras 1996), Unfortunately details of the methodologies used are not
    given in the report.

   a study of the impact of the training programmes in 1998 as part of an ESCOR-
    funded international comparative gender impact study of enterprise training
    methodologies (Leach 2000). The field work was carried out by a local Sudanese
    researcher, Ms Salwa Abdullah, between June 1997 and February 1998. 18
    women in two groups were interviewed using qualitative interview techniques as
    well as participant observation in training sessions.

The two studies reach rather different conclusions, with Hadjipateras‟ participatory
study being considerably more optimistic about programme impact than Leach‟s
interview study. This is considered by the authors of these two studies to be at least
partly due to changes in the programme described above, although there were also
differences in methodology.

3.2 Findings of the impact assessments

Women's Economic Empowerment

Both women‟s ethnic background and the place of their residence either inside or
around the town have a direct impact on the nature of their economic activities and
their needs and interests.

The programme has certainly made an important contribution to increasing women's
access to credit, and also answers an expressed demand from women themselves.
In 1995 women constituted 38% of the total clients assisted, rising to 47% in 1996.
By December 1998, women constituted 51% of a total of 22,626 individuals and
groups assisted by the programme. Nevertheless evaluations of the functioning of
LACs found considerable concern that their ability to reach women was extremely
variable. In one group there was only one woman because the men felt „this was a
male-dominated area‟. In another very few women were reached. The men on the
committee said this was because of women's reluctance to take out loans fearing
prison and damage to their reputation if they were unable to pay. The women
present at the meeting said that the problem was that the committee members were
men (Hashemi 1997).

Moreover, as elsewhere, access to credit does not inevitably translate into control of
the loan or of the income earned. There is evidence amongst Beja women that
husbands take over the loan once the initial paperwork is finished (ACORD, 1993a
quoted Stallard 1996). There has been no systematic investigation of loan use to
assess the extent of male appropriation of loans.

The programme has also assisted women to develop enterprises. As can be seen
from the cases in Box 2, there have been some cases of relative success. Some
women showed considerable entrepreneurial flair, and had definitely benefited from
the loans. They show flexibility in responding to market opportunities and good skills
in market research, at least some of which can be attributed to the training. Some
women in supportive family environments have also managed to continually invest in
Linda Mayoux          33348907-03f5-4fbd-beb2-7f1cef9a2c34.doc                              3/7/2010
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their businesses to expand and diversify as well as improving their housing and
paying for education (Leach 2000). Some employment opportunities have also been
created (Hadjipateras 1995).

However the cases in Box 2 were the most successful of the sample studied. For
most women incomes are very low. Even incomes of the women in Box 2 are lower
than those earned by men in menial occupations like water-carrying and
considerably lower than in skilled manual occupations like taxi-driving. The activities
in which women were engaged were generally extensions of their domestic role,
mostly in tailoring or retailing. They were operating in competition with each other in
very small, saturated and uncertain markets, subject to high inflation and big
seasonal fluctuations. Many women moved from one activity to another, as each one
proved disappointing in terms of profitability. For example one woman interviewed in
Leach‟s study had been involved in seven separate activities over the research
period: selling seeds, selling eggs, making leather bags for sale, making
sandwiches, selling bed sheets, growing vegetables (helping her husband) and
making schoolboys‟ clothes (it was not clear whether these were for sale). She had
taken out loans firstly to buy seeds, and secondly to buy bed sheets, and all had
been sold without her re-investing further in this line (Leach 2000).

The contribution of the current training programmes to women's incomes is unclear.
Leach‟s study concluded that the formal skills training in sewing and handicrafts
were not of high quality, particularly those provided by ex-clients of ACORD following
the withdrawal of formal ACORD training. Some women were attending for reasons
unconnected with micro-enterprise development, for example to break the isolation
of the home and interact with other women, or to take advantage of the food
handouts and levels of attendance were not high 5. This low motivation to acquire
productive skills among some women, combined with the very large number of
participants, the irregularity of their attendance and the lack of equipment (only two
sewing machines) led to low levels of skill acquisition. Moreover, this skills training
was not combined with basic business skills. Business training was confined to initial
advice and business plan appraisal for women who took out loans. A number of
women felt that they had learned more from market experience and the one-to-one
advice from staff than the formal training itself (Leach 2000). However the amount of
advice which could be given in this way was seriously limited following the staff cuts,
phase-out to LACs and increasing emphasis on financial sustainability. If LACs are
having trouble recruiting women, it is unlikely that they will be able to give advice,
particularly in LACs with few female members.


  One of the two courses observed had only 2 sewing machines for 70 registered trainees. Attendance at all three
courses was low. In one instead of 54 registered trainees only 21 and 35 were present on two consecutive days.
In another of 90 only 75 were present and the researcher were told only 20 completed the course.
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Case Study 1: Soad Fadl was aged 47, married with eight children. She had
attended a khalwa school and was following a literacy class. Her husband had only
attended three months of literacy classes. He sold water from a donkey cart earning
about 5000 LS per day. His income was not stable, as water was in high demand in
summer but low demand in winter.

 Soad sold items such as perfume, tomato paste, biscuits, spices, soap and okra
from a well-stocked stall by the roadside. She earned about 3000 LS per day and
spent six to seven hours daily on this activity. She had taken three loans from
ACORD, the third and current one being a four month loan of 200,000 LS and the
loans had definitely helped her increase her income (amount unspecified). From the
training, she said she had learnt how to increase profits and to identify potential
customers, how to address problems such as choosing materials or marketing
products. She had also learnt how to deal with people in the market. She also
recognised that she had acquired leadership skills and skills to deal with new
members of her sanduq. She would like to increase her work but she had no
premises from which to operate. Supply problems made relations with customers
difficult. She would like to expand, buying a grinder and a fridge would make it easier
for her. She would also like to open a shop but could not because of local

She used her extra income to cover expenses, to improve the house and to pay for
her son’s university fees. Their standard of living had increased and she no longer
needed to borrow from neighbours. Her husband was supportive of her and had
helped her build storage space for materials and to prepare ingredients. He had
changed his attitude towards her work considerably. Her husband no longer sold
water and instead helped her by buying the materials from the market, helping her
on the stall and transporting goods to customers. Her daughters also helped by
doing housework, which reduced the pressure on her a great deal. She would like to
save to build a house (Leach 2000).

Case Study 2: Amna a married woman aged 37, married with one 18 year old
daughter. Her husband was a building labourer and a blacksmith, earning about
10,000 LS per day. She had never been to school, nor had her husband, but her
daughter was currently in senior secondary school. Her husband was supportive,
trusted her and allowed her to make all decisions relating to her work. Her daughter
helped by doing housework so as to allow her to concentrate on productive work.

Amna was a peddler, selling small items such as sugar, tea, flour, local perfume and
okra powder (ladies fingers) for about four hours per day. She sometimes sold ice as
well. She earned about 8000 LS per week, after deducting her loan repayments. She
had taken out four loans from ACORD, the latest one being for 200,000 LS, which
she took in December 1997 for six months. She used it to buy sugar and perfume for
retail sale. At the time of the first follow-up visit, her retailing was expanding. At the
time of the second follow-up visit, her income had increased by 3000 LS per week to
11,000 LS. She saw as major constraints on her expanding her business the
increase in the price of raw materials and the unstable electricity supply which
affected the production of ice for sale. She saw the way forward in terms of
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evaluating her business at regular intervals and adjusting her prices in keeping with
inflation. She said that she had changed her approach to her work by learning to
identify customers’ needs, rather than having a variety of goods and materials that
might take a long time to sell. However, she was of the opinion that she had learnt
these and other skills more from her experience in the marketplace and from other
women than from the business advice received from ACORD. She said ACORD staff
visits to her house were few and she herself went to the ACORD office to pay her
instalments. She acknowledged, however, that she had learnt how to manage her
business better from them.

She was using her net income to expand her trading activities, build the house, buy
furniture, buy new clothes for her daughter and bed sheets and make some savings.
She was also the leader of her local sanduq (savings and credit group) and she
spent about two hours per day collecting contributions from group members and
distributing loans. She talked of the number of sanduq members increasing. She
spent three hours per day trading and four hours per day on sanduq management.
She would like to spend less time on the sanduq as it took up a lot of time, was risky
and had a low profit. She would like to increase her working capital and find new
markets. By this time, her husband was not working, so she had to cover all
household expenses. She would like to set up a mini-shop. (Leach 2000)

Case Study 3: Mona Ahmed, aged 40, is married and living with her younger
daughter. Her husband is a day labourer with a regular and low income. Her aged
mother lives in a separate home but is also dependent on her income. Mona's first
contact with ACORD was in 1990. At that time she was uncertain about the type of
business to run. The sub-office staff supported her in choosing an easy business
provided that she expressed a strong commitment. She obtained a loan of LS12,000
to buy an ice keeper so that she could start selling ice cream us ing her neighbour's
fridge. She repaid the first loan and out of her profits she also started retailing
business. After a year she contacted ACORD again, for a loan of LS20,000 to buy
retailing items to diversify her stock. Again she repaid the loan and created a regular
clientele. From her profits and savings she bought her own fridge. However she was
forced to move away from her home in the re-planning process of the city squatter
areas. She moved to a new plot of land and constructed a new house with rags, tins
and scrap wood. She was relieved that she got a plot but other problems emerged.
The first problem she faced was how to re-establish her business with shrinking
working capital affected by the transfer costs and other fees related to the land
ownership registration. She again approached ACORD and got a loan of LS80,000
from one office and a matching loan from another. After eight months she closed
both loans successfully in the scheduled time. She managed to build more than
80% of her house with cement blocks from her profits and improve the general
appearance of the house. She is also helping to pay the university fees for her
daughter and the business has expanded. In 1998 she took another loan for
LS300,000 which she was also repaying satisfactorily in 1999. She continues as a
mobile trader providing different goods to customers. To raise the volume she sells
she has adopted an interest-free credit system for her trusted customers where they
pay 50% cash and the rest in instalments. (ACORD 1998)
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Case Study 4: Gawaher a married woman aged 45 with seven children aged
between 24 and 8. An aunt also lived with them. She and her husband had six years
of primary schooling. Her husband had a small vegetable farm (where she helped for
about two hours per day) and a rented shop, which generated together about
105,000 LS per month. He also had a loan of 140,000 LS to buy a generator. She
said her husband was very supportive of her economic activities, as were other
family members. Gawaher has been involved in six different economic activities
(excluding farming), none of which were particularly profitable or based on a long-
term business plan. At first she was earning an income from selling vegetable seeds
and eggs from home, and she also did some needlework for sale. She took a loan of
150,000 LS from ACORD to buy seed and earned approximately 4-5000 LS net per
day, once her loan repayments were taken into account. Then she started making
leather handbags, using skills she had acquired on an ACORD training course, as
well as selling seeds and eggs and working on the farm. This increased the time she
spent on her productive activities from three to five hours per day (excluding the
farm) and her income had increased slightly. She had started making leather bags
because she said there was a good market for them and she was even thinking of
making leather shoes. However, she had to stop making bags because she did not
have the required working capital to buy the raw material. Instead she was making
sandwiches for sale. Then she stopped making sandwiches and took a new three-
month loan of 150,000 LS from ACORD to buy bed sheets. She had bought these
wholesale and sold them locally, making a total profit of 36,000 LS. Her income from
other sources had remained roughly the same at about 6000 LS per day. She then
started making schoolboys’ clothes for sale. Most of her income was spent on the
household, visiting relatives and school fees. She considered that training had
helped her to improve her handicraft skills, and encouraged her to diversify using
different raw materials. The informal advice she received from ACORD when
accessing her loan had also made her more aware about marketing. She felt more
self-confident and independent as she had more available cash to deal with
unforeseen crises. However, the high price of raw materials affected the profitability
of what she was doing and made it difficult for her to save (Leach 2000).

Wellbeing and intra-household relations

The physical conditions in which women and their families live are very difficult.
Although there are variations in conditions within and between the deim, most lack
water and electricity and roads and sanitation are poor. In many areas housing
consists of shelters made of scrap wood, metal, or even sacking and paper. A
government re-planning process in the 1990s relocated most of the poor to new
deim areas which offered greater security of tenure for the inhabitants. These new
areas are however located up to 16 km from the town centre, and also lack
shelter, water and sanitation and many of those up-rooted have had to re-build
their homes from scrap.

Any increase in women‟s incomes is therefore a welcome additional to household
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income. The 1995 study found that in some cases, overall household income had
practically doubled resulting in increased food security, a better and more varied diet,
improved housing conditions, and fewer illnesses, especially among children, but it is
unclear how many of the successes were women. The study also found that there
was an improvement in general well-being within communities. The commercial
activity generated by the injection of credit led to an increased range of products in
shops and markets. Many credit requests were for the provision of services, such as
water and electricity. Women benefited from this as they had to spend less time
going in search of more distant water sources and were able to devote more time to
other activities, such as evening classes, spending time with their children, having
henna decoration, etc. All household members have benefited from the introduction
of electricity: children had more time for homework, for social and community
gatherings and access to television meant people were better informed about
general political affairs. Health services had also been improved through the
availability of First Aid services provided by women trainees from the women's
centres. Women as the main carers and also those whose health is often neglected,
obviously benefited from this.

However firstly women‟s responsibility for household subsistence meant that many
women spent most of their income on daily household needs. Leach‟s study found
that although some women had increased their income over the field work period (at
least partly because of a dynamic market during the Ramadan and Eid period), very
few women appeared able to re-invest their profits in the business in order for it to
expand. Much of the income seemed to be spent on meeting family obligations,
repairing the house, meeting their children‟s school expenses, or sending their
children to stay with relatives. 6 Women seemed to be continuously short of working
capital, taking one loan after another. This allowed them to buy items in bulk for
selling on at a small profit, but without this contributing in any way to building up
business capacity.

Secondly for many women inequalities within the household place serious
constraints on women‟s ability to increase their incomes. The study by Fiona Leach
found that there were certainly some examples of significant changes in husbands‟
attitudes towards their wife‟s work. One interviewee‟s husband now allowed her to
make decisions on her own relating to the family and her work in appreciation of her
efforts to make an income. Another woman's husband stopped his work selling water
from a donkey cart and started to help her in the market. Many other men appeared
supportive of the women‟s training and economic activities. However in other cases
husbands and other family members placed serious limitations on the sort of work
which women could do. In two cases the husband and in one case the brother would
not allow their women to work outside the house. Even when these women‟s
incomes increased, there was no change in attitude. In the two cases where the
husbands refused to let their wives work outside the house this continued to be the
case despite there being an increase in income. This lack of change in attitude also
occurred even when men were very dependent on their wives incomes.

 This echoes the findings of earlier reports. For example the 1985 Annual Report highlights the problem of
women using their capital for consumption or caring for sick relatives while their business collapses.
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   Thirdly the degree to which there has been any change in decision-making in the
   household is unclear. Only two women said they took all the important decisions in
   the household. Of these one was a widow and one was a woman whose husband
   had not worked for six years. One other woman said she was able to make sole
   decisions relating to her participation in community activities and making the best
   use of family income, another who was divorced and living with her brother‟s family,
   said that she made all decisions regarding her work, her movements and her
   participation in training. Five women said they were involved in some decisions
   (jointly with the male head of household) concerning, for example, their children‟s
   education, family affairs or the house and were happy with this situation. One woman
   said all decisions were taken by her husband, even regarding her work but she
   expressed no desire to be more involved because she knew her husband would not
   allow it. There is however no information on how this situation differs from before the
   loan and the sample is very small.


   Case Study 5: Mariam a married woman aged 32, with six children aged between
   18 and 5. She had no formal schooling, but had attended literacy classes for 18
   months. Her husband was a taxi driver earning 5000 LS per day. Her husband had
   borrowed 100,000 LS from colleagues to repair his taxi. Her husband would not let
   her work outside the home. She engaged in tailoring and selling small items such as
   soap and sweets from the house. Her sons helped her in retailing before and after
   school hours. She had borrowed 100,000 LS from ACORD in July 1997 to buy a
   sewing machine and had only 1000 LS to repay. She earned about 7000 LS per
   week for four hours’ work per day (after deducting the loan repayment). Her income
   increased during Ramadan to 9000 LS per week. She had received some advice
   from ACORD on how to keep a profit and loss account, and on marketing. She now
   prepared a list of goods with a view to expanding the retailing side. She had found
   this advice very helpful because she could now work out her profit and had learnt
   how to balance effort, time and income. This had helped her to increase her income.
   She would like to spend more time working since she had increased customer
   demand (from neighbours). She saw possible constraints to her expansion as being
   the lack of availability of some items in the market, but this made her think of other
   goods to trade in. She spent all her income on meeting household needs, buying
   materials for her work and repaying the loan. When her husband’s taxi had broken
   down, she had been able to cover household expenses, repair the house and pay
   instalments on the ACORD loan promptly. She had also been able to send the
   children on holiday to relatives, buy clothes etc. for the children and assist her
   husband when necessary. Even though her income had increased and she covered
   all household expenses while her husband was unable to work, he still would not
   consider letting her work outside the home. He would not even allow her daughter to
   go to the market. This attitude was also held by the children and she herself agreed
   with it. She preferred to let her husband make all decisions. There had been no
   change of attitude within the family towards her working, despite her increased
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Case Study 6: Rahmna was a married woman aged 32, with seven children aged
between 16 and one. Neither she nor her husband had had any schooling. Her
husband would not let her work outside the house. She spent about two hours per
day preparing ready made food at home which her husband then sold in the market
(they came from the west of Sudan where joint work by men and women is
common). She had taken two loans from ACORD, the current one being for 300,000
LS taken in July 1997, with which she had bought beans and oil for making tamia.
Since taking out her first ACORD loan, she had been able to increase daily
production and their daily income from 6000 LS to 10,000 LS. During Ramadan their
income decreased by 3000 LS per day, as a result of increased competition. She
would like to expand it into a proper catering business because this was their main
source of income. She would like to open three branches in different localities, but
they did not have working capital and the market was insecure. Their shared income
was spent on meeting family needs, including children’s schooling, repaying the loan
and some savings.

Social and political empowerment

As noted above the population covered by Port Sudan programme is culturally
diverse and there are significant variations in women‟s expectations. For example
PRA exercises found that among the J'aaliyin (Northern tribe) and Hadendowa
(Beja) ideal „female‟ characteristics focused on physical and behavioral
characteristics of the idle housewife. However while Hadendowa males preferred
their women to be proud and cynical the J'aaliyin women were expected to be
obedient and generous. Hausa women on the other hand were expected to „be
productive, religious and fertile‟. Women identified different issues. Hausa women
were concerned with enabling women who were already engaged in production to
have more power in the decision making. Beja women on the other hand were more
concerned with having a more clearly defined productive role in order to upgrade the
standard of living of the family 7. Neither of the above studies differentiate between
different ethnic groups to assess how far the changes, or lack of change, are
affected by ethnic differences in the initial expectations and constraints.

When the programme had a broad-based policy it is clear that there had been some
contribution to women‟s social and political empowerment. When ACORD first began
working in Port Sudan, hardly any women even contemplated taking out credit for
business purposes. The vast majority of women were wholly economically
dependent on their husbands and could not engage in any economic activities
outside the home for fear of social disapproval. Even to be seen discussing with an
ACORD worker would arouse fear and shame. In contrast by 1995, there were long
queues of women outside ACORD sub-offices waiting to be served alongside the
men and women were as assertive as men in their demands for credit.

There were significant changes apart from those directly related to credit activities. In
the initial stages of the programme ACORD's community development activities
covered a wider range of training activities including leadership training for both men

 Although these PRA exercises were conducted in nearby Kassala the ethnic composition and situation in Port
Sudan is very similar.
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and women. By 1996 women occupied key positions on management committees in
a number of mixed groups. Women had begun to demand a more equal role in the
management of group enterprises. For example, in the case of a lighting group,
whereas men used to handle the cash receipts women insisted on opening a group
bank account with one female and one male signatory. Women‟s role as providers of
a wide range of services within their communities, from retailing to health to training
and basic education had also led to changes in perceptions of women's capabilities.

The Women‟s Centres were also important in providing a focus for organising
women. For example the Women's Centre in Salalab deim was originally set up by
ACORD, but by 1996 was managed entirely independently by former women
trainees. Its services included training in a range of business and vocational skills,
educational courses (literacy, health nutrition, first aid, etc) and a kindergarten. After
its withdrawal, ACORD initially supported the Centre by providing the premis es at a
highly subsidised rent. Within a year, owing to the sharp business acumen of the
Centre's female manager, it had become fully self-financing and paid ACORD the full
commercial rent. In some deims, women had organised to demand their rights from
the Town Council. The Association of Women Caterers, formed in response to the
harassment many women were experiencing at the hands of official authorities
successfully put an end to this harassment. Through their involvement in women's
centres and other group activities, women had developed stronger solidarity
mechanisms for supporting each other in times of crisis. Exposure to new ideas and
knowledge had also led to changes in women's aspirations.

Thus there certainly have been some changes brought about particularly by training
and the formation of Women's Centres in the early years. Leach's study however is
far less optimistic about the contribution of the programme in its current form. She
identifies multiple constraints at the household, community and micro-levels which
affected even women's limited aspirations to increase incomes. She found that,
apart from a few cases, there was little evidence that women were taking greater
control of their lives. As noted above women continued to be seriously constrained in
their economic activities by some family members and in decision-making.

Significantly also many women interviewed by Leach had very low aspirations for
themselves and appeared reconciled to their constrained lives (only two women
interviewed said they would like more say in household decisions). As to what
changes they would like to see in their lives the most frequently cited were:
educating their children, improving their family‟s status (through increased income or
educating their children), building or completing construction on a house; increasing
production for family income and to „have a better life‟. Other changes cited were:
migrating to Egypt, having a more rewarding business, being „well known among
colleagues‟, and improving tailoring skills. Some women did however mention
„changing traditional attitudes in the community towards women working‟, „increasing
activities and income‟. Only two women said they would like to be more involved in
household decision-making especially in decisions relating to their own lives and
family affairs.

There were also continuing broader community-level constraints which penalised
women's interactions with non-related men and included threats of physical violence.
Women had difficulties securing premises from which to trade and extending working
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hours because of government restrictions on women working at night. Although the
Sudanese context is extremely difficult with the increasing emphasis on Islamic
fundamentalism, nevertheless there are women‟s movements working for change
(Hale 1996; Halim 1994). The current project document contains no plans to address
any of the above issues or link with these organisations.


   Existing evidence raises many more questions than it answers. Nevertheless the
   evidence does point to a number of priority policy issues for future impact
   assessment and some methodological issues to be borne in mind.

   4.1 Key policy issues

Thus there have been some important achievements for some women. Nevertheless
there are a number of disturbing features about the current emphasis on efficiency
and sustainability and this threatens to reverse or dilute the positive achievements of
earlier programme policies. In many of the programme reports of the mid-1990s the
underlying rationale for a gender policy becomes largely related to efficiency
because of higher levels of female repayment.

What evidence exists however indicates that if gender issues are not strategically
addressed then the contribution to women‟s empowerment will be reduced.

1) Female targeting: Although women continued to be targeted, a significant slip in
the proportion of female clients from 49% in 1993 to 38% in 1994 coincided with
reductions in staff which reduced the proportion of female staff to five out of fourteen
and withdrawal of training centres. Female targeting appears under threat again from
the reliance on LACs.

2) Conditions of loan delivery: The increase in larger Musharaka loans to increase
financial sustainability mainly benefits businesses such as animal fattening and
retailing - the types of businesses that women are not involved in (Stallard 1996).

3) Self-management and Loan Advisory Committees: The project seems to focus
more on group lending and self-management as an administrative method which
makes loan processing and repayment procedures easier (Stallard 1996). Although
women‟s high representation in these structures may indicate social empowerment,
unless these structures and the women are adequately supported these Committees
may just be another means of shifting costs onto women. The fact that in 1998 the
female client staff ratio was 350 compared to a male client staff ratio of 262 may
indicate not only women‟s efficiency, but also less individual support for women and
greater pressures on women clients to assist staff through unpaid voluntary work
rather than income-earning or other leisure activities.

4) Training: Without access to training and support, women are unlikely to move
beyond their traditional spheres of activity. Leach‟s study indicates serious
shortcomings in the training offered. But she concludes not that training is
unnecessary but that the women needed better training and more visits from
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ACORD staff to monitor their use of the loan, more business advice, especially on
which activities were the most profitable, and more moral support and
encouragement over an extended period of time. Hadjipateras also found that the
steady improvement in business success rates over the years appears to be strongly
linked to the provision of such courses. Many women‟s centres have been able to
find alternative sources of funding following the funding cuts, providing services in
collaboration with NGOs, community structures and/or individual women community
leaders. However, others still require some support, such as premises, in order to
maintain themselves. In the case of some courses formerly provided by ACORD for
all its credit clients, such as business and credit management, suitable alternatives
have not been found.

4) Reduction in staff: Pressure to scale up the number of clients and size of loan
may make project staff less concerned with women's ability to control the loan.
Women may borrow beyond their absorption capacity leading to greater
indebtedness. As noted above the higher female client staff relationship, coupled
with the new emphasis on male staff dealing with female clients (ACORD 1998) may
further reduce women‟s access to appropriate business advice and services.

4.2 Methodological considerations

1) Emphasis on quantitative indicators: Disaggregated quantitative data makes
women more visible, but the focus on loan disbursal and repayment data fails to
adequately capture impact. A high repayment rate does not say anything about the
economic return clients receive in terms of productivity. Within the annual progress
reports even the very limited data is presented with very little analysis of gender
differentials e.g. gender differentials in loan amounts and default. In addition, more
qualitative information, such as the impact of loan receipt in terms of the use and
distribution of the benefits at the household or community level is not collected
(ACORD, 1996: 26). Income benefits may trail off over time, but ACORD's use of
short term impact measurements will not reveal this (Stallard 1996).

2) Longitudinal studies of policy change: The methodological differences
between the two studies make any conclusion about the impact of the change in
microfinance policies and training programmes inevitably tentative. The apparent
decrease in impact on gender relations and women‟s incomes as a result of the
policies introduced to increase financial sustainability point to an urgent need to
investigate these issues in more detail through longitudinal impact studies. This
would also include the impact of the implementation and changes in gender policy.


ACORD-Kassala (1995). Annual Report. Kassala, Sudan, ACORD.

ACORD-PortSudan (1996). Programme Document 1996-1998. Port Sudan,

ACORD Port Sudan (1998). ACORD Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise
Programme: End of programme Phase Review and Planning Document 1999-2000.
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Port Sudan, ACORD Port Sudan.

ACORD-Sudan (1997). Review Meeting on Port Sudan and Kassala Programmes'
Development and Phase-Out: Preparatory Notes. Khartoum, ACORD Sudan.

ACORD Sudan (1998). Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise Programme: Annual
Report 1998. Khartoum, ACORD Sudan.

ACORD Sudan (1999). Project Completion Report for DFID: Port Sudan Small Sc ale
Enterprise Programme. Khartoum, ACORD Sudan.

Amin, S. (1993). Port Sudan and Red Sea Field Trip Report. Port Sudan, ACORD.

Gasim, I., S. Ali, et al. (1995). ACORD Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise
Programme: 1995 Annual Report.

Gibson, A. ( 1995). ACORD Kassala, and Port Sudan Programmes Evaluation
Report. London, ACORD-UK.

Hadjipateras, A. ( 1996). ACORD Gender Research - Final report. London,

Hadjipateras, A. (1995). ACORD's Credit Scheme in Port Sudan. London, ACORD.

Hale, S. (1996). Gender politics in Sudan: Islam, Socialism and the State. Colorado,
USA, Westview Press.

Halim, A. M. A. (1994). Challenges to the Application of International Human Rights
in the Sudan. Human Rights of Women. R.Cook. USA, University of Pennsylvania

Hashim, I. (1997). Preliminary Evaluation of Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise
Programme. Khartoum, ACORD-Sudan.

Leach, F. (2000). The Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise Programme (Sudan).
Brighton, University of Sussex, Institute of Education.

Pankhurst, H. and D. Johnston (1998). Diversity in Practice: An International NGO's
Experience of Micro-finance. African Urban Poverty. N. Nelson and S. Jones.
London and New York, IT Publications.

Stallard, D. ( 1996). Institutionalising Gender: Observations on ACORD's Port
Sudan Small-scale Enterprise Project, Sudan. London, ACORD-UK.
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APPENDIX: GENDER EQUALITY: Policy, Good Practice Guidelines and Action
Plan for ACORD 2000 – 2003 Draft for discussion ACORD, London August,

ACORD‟s concern with gender justice dates back over a decade and was formalised
with the adoption of a policy and action-based programme on Women in
Development adopted in 1988. ACORD‟s latest Strategic Plan (1997-2001) places
equal opportunities and the aim of addressing the imbalance between men and
women at the heart of ACORD‟s vision. In 1994, a review of the impact of the gender
policy was initiated, based on a process of research carried out in several stages
over a period of three years. A Gender Advisory Committee was established to guide
the research and propose strategies for follow-up. The final component of the
organisational gender review was a gender audit based on 1996 programme annual
reports. In compiling the policy, a wide range of internal and external documents
have been consulted:


ACORD is committed to GENDER EQUALITY. We will work towards this
goal by:
 Promoting equal access to and control over power and resources
   between men and women.
  Promoting equal opportunities and opposing all forms of discrimination
 on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic or national origin, class,
 religion, sexuality, age, disability, HIV status or marital status.
  Deepening our understanding of gender and gender relations.
  Enhancing organisational capacity to achieve these aims.
  Devoting adequate resources (including human, information and time
 resources) for their realisation.
  Living up to the standards and principles we advocate.

The gender policy is not intended to provide a blueprint for practice
throughout the organisation. That would be neither feasible, nor desirable.
The key objectives of the gender policy are as follows:
 To develop a common language throughout ACORD based on a common
    understanding of the meanings of gender concepts, aims and objectives
    as they relate to policy and practice.
 To provide a clear vision of what ACORD as an organisation is aiming to
    achieve, setting this within the context of ACORD‟s own internal evolution,
    as well as within the evolution of gender debates in the international arena.
 To set out a strategy and lines of responsibility at different levels of the
    organisation for realising that vision within a reasonable timeframe and
    with reference to targets set under ACORD‟s current Strategic Plan (1997-
To provide some targets and indicators against which progress can be
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     Ideology, i.e. rules, values and conceptual frameworks which inform the
      way the organisation functions
     Practices, i.e. the organisation‟s everyday behaviour and procedures;
     Agents, i.e. the actors who put the concepts used by ACORD into
      practice, both directly and indirectly.

          Internal documents include reports produced as part of the WID policy
           development and review, the gender review, the policy consultation process,
           the minutes of Gender Committee meetings and various other reports and
           papers dealing with gender issues and concerns within ACORD.

          External documents include the texts of various international conventions, the
           policies and guidelines adopted by various official organisations (e.g. World
           Bank, the OECD, DFID) and the policies and guidelines adopted by other
           NGOs (e.g. NOVIB, Oxfam, Action Aid, International Co-operation for
           Development and others).

2.1         Goals

ACORD is committed to promoting gender equality and views this as a universal
principle. This reflects the views of its members and staff and is in line with the
fundamental principle enshrined in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action:

          “Equality is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice
          and is also a necessary and fundamental pre-requisite for equality,
          development and peace” (Mission Statement, para.1)

ACORD will work towards the achievement of this overall goal as follows.

2.1.1 Promoting equal access to and control over power and resources
between women and men

The disproportionate poverty experienced by women world-wide is directly related to
the absence of economic opportunities and autonomy for women, lack of access to
economic resources, education and services and to their minimal participation in

In order to tackle poverty and promote greater equality, ACORD will promote
programme interventions aimed at enhancing equal access to opportunities and
resources and increasing women‟s control over key assets and decision-making. In
particular, interventions aimed at empowering women to challenge their subordinate
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status in the home, the community and society at large will be encouraged and
supported. The critical importance of empowerment emerged strongly from the
Beijing conference:

       “Women‟s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of
       equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-
       making process and access to power, are fundamental for the
       achievement of equality, development and peace.” (Beijing
       Declaration, para.13)

ACORD‟s programming priorities will fall broadly in line with the major areas of
concern highlighted in the Beijing Platform for Action:

    Feminisation of poverty
    Unequal access to resources
    Unequal access to education and training
    Unequal access to health care and related services
    Violence against women
    Effects of armed and other kinds of conflict
    Inequality in decision-making and power structures
    Lack of respect for and protection of women‟s human rights

This list is not intended to be exhaustive and ACORD will deal with other areas of
concern in line with the overall goals of gender equality and non-discrimination.

In promoting gender equality, ACORD is not denying the obvious differences
that exist between men and women. As noted in guidelines produced by the
Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD):

    “Gender equality requires equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued
    goods, opportunities, resources and rewards. Gender equality does not mean that men
    and women become the same, but that their opportunities and life chances are equal.
    (DAC Guidelines for Gender Equality and Women‟s Empowerment, p.13)

2.1.2 Promoting equal opportunities and opposing all forms of
discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic or national origin,
class, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, HIV status or marital

ACORD recognises that equality between men and women cannot be achieved
without addressing discrimination on any of the above grounds. Thus, ACORD‟s
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commitment to gender equality goes hand in hand with its commitment to equal
opportunities in general.

In accordance with the vision and values outlined in the strategic plan, ACORD is
committed to promoting equal opportunities in all spheres: in its own recruitment
procedures for new employees, in the terms and conditions of employment for
existing employees and through our staff training and development policy. In
addition, we will promote organisational structures and management styles
conducive to this aim.

2.1.3 Deepening our understanding of gender and gender relations

ACORD recognises that gender as a concept is not static, nor have we attained a
definitive level of understanding of what we mean by this concept and what we hope
to achieve. Gender should be seen as an integral part of a wider search for deep
understanding of human behaviour, including both physical and emotional needs,
perceptions, motivations, relationships and structures. ACORD will support and
promote efforts to deepen understanding of the meaning and relevance of gender
concepts at all levels of the organisation. This will require collaboration and
networking across programmes and with other agencies, and indeed with cross-
disciplinary academic specialists.

Gender analysis in ACORD, as in much of the development professional in general,
has tended in the past to focus on women‟s economic and productive roles. An
expanded understanding of gender differentiation will need:
 to move away from the previous concentration on women and instead embrace
    the gendered dimensions of men‟s as well as women‟s lives, and
 to match a concern with production and community with a concern with personal
    development, personal relations, and the emotional dimension (including issues
    of sexuality and sexual and reproductive health)

2.1.4 Enhancing organisational capacity to achieve these aims

ACORD will aim to maximise its own organisational capacity to achieve these aims
by ensuring that adequate support, guidance and training are provided to staff.

In addition, organisational structures, working practices and management styles that
reflect the principles of gender equality and equal opportunities will be promoted
throughout ACORD. In particular, ACORD will promote management styles that work
against stereotyping, give emphasis to teamwork and joint decision-making, promote
transparency and good communications practices and provide opportunities for
personal development.

2.1.4 Devoting adequate resources for their realisation

ACORD will aim to ensure that adequate material and human resources are made
available at all levels of the organisation for translating these goals and principles in
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2.1.6 Living up to the standards and principles we advocate

ACORD recognises that the promotion of gender equality in the organisation‟s
internal policies, structures, procedures, and in the values and standards it sets itself
is an essential pre-requisite for the achievement of greater gender equality in the
communities where we work. All staff will be responsible for reflecting ACORD‟s
values in their behaviour and ACORD will strive to apply and adhere to the same
basic principles and standards inside the organisation as those promoted outside it.

2.2    Principles for the implementation of gender equality goals

In committing itself to the achievement of these basic goals, ACORD will be guided
by the following principles:

2.2.1 Acknowledging variety in cultural contexts
Programmes operate within different cultural, political and legal contexts and
therefore start towards the goal of gender equality from different departure points.
Each context will require analysis, problem identification and the development of
appropriate methodologies for reaching the goal. It is not expected that each context
will necessarily generate identical problems or that the path towards the goal will
proceed in the same way or at the same pace.

2.2.1 Recognising diversity
While many aspects of women‟s experiences unite them, their living conditions and
social status vary widely across different cultures and different social, economic and
political groupings. ACORD acknowledges the full diversity of women‟s and men‟s
situations and conditions. It is important for ACORD to deepen its understanding of
differences, as well as similarities, and to work in ways that promote unity within

2.2.3 Equality and participation
ACORD is committed to developing and applying participatory methodologies, as the
basis of all its work with communities. ACORD is also committed to the principle of
participation in relation to its own decision-making structures and management style,
as a prerequisite to promoting gender equality within its own structures.

2.2.4 Involving men in the process of change
ACORD recognises that „gender‟ and „women‟ are not synonymous and that
deepening our understanding of gender relations necessarily entails finding out
about how societal conditioning, norms and traditions, impact on the behaviour of
men, as well as women. Similarly, the achievement of gender equality implies a
redefinition of the rights and responsibilities of women and men in all spheres, and
its achievement requires women and men to work in partnership.

2.2.5 Addressing conflict and resistance
The goal of gender equality is a transformatory one, and, like all processes of
change, is likely to threaten the entrenched interests of individuals and groups (both
men and women). The conflictual nature of such change needs to be acknowledged
frankly, and skills developed within the organisation to handle the resolution of
conflict carefully without diluting the goal itself.