ECODIT Promotes Sustainable Development Through Gender Integration
February 2024

By Celia Zeilberger, Director of Communications and Learning

ECODIT is a women-owned small business (WOSB) with more than 30 years of experience fostering socially and environmentally responsible development. Last year, ECODIT intensified its efforts to meaningfully incorporate gender considerations across projects and activities and to address barriers facing women and girls so they could better participate in uplifting their communities. This resulted in enhanced development outcomes in the key sectors in which ECODIT works. “We have seen that by adopting a gender focus throughout implementation, we not only advance gender equality but also amplify and sustain development impact,” said ECODIT President Roula Attar.

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In the land tenure and property rights field, for example, Liberia is advancing women’s rights and strengthening secure land tenure. Through the USAID Liberia Land Management Activity, ECODIT provided training on land tenure to more than 300 community leaders, youth, members of marginalized groups, and town criers—half of whom were women. Participants engaged with each other in open discussions that ended up changing deeply held beliefs. For example, at the beginning of one training, 90% of participants expressed their view that women are not entitled to land rights. After the training, 85% of those same participants changed their minds and supported women’s land rights. This shift in attitudes paved the way for the emergence of new female leaders in the sector. ECODIT is now supporting these leaders with leadership tools, mentorship opportunities, and training on dispute resolution and land tenure processes.

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Description automatically generated Taking active steps to engage women can also lead to improved economic and environmental outcomes. In Zimbabwe, for example, ECODIT is working with communities to boost their incomes and enhance their resilience, with a strong focus on women’s meaningful participation. For the USAID Resilience ANCHORS Activity, ECODIT trained primarily female community members in the mid-Zambezi valley on new environmentally sustainable livelihoods organized them into producer groups, and connected them to markets. There are now 500 more households to which women contribute income for the first time. To further build on this progress, ECODIT introduced savings and lending groups in communities without access to financial services so women and their families can invest in their future directly.

ECODIT has found that engaging women and girls is particularly critical for moving the needle on social and environmental issues. In Cambodia, ECODIT is mobilizing youth in a wide-ranging campaign to change behaviors impacting the environment. For the USAID Green Future Activity, ECODIT organized high school and college students into “Green Groups” that design and implement social media campaigns and events in support of environmental conservation. An impressive 80% of these groups’ members are women. The Green Groups have helped usher in wide-ranging change in Cambodia. The project’s midline Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices (KAP) survey showed that 77% of young people now say that they believe Cambodia’s biodiversity conservation, forest protection, and sustainable natural resource management are important, as opposed to just 45% in 2020. The percentage of youth who would discuss environmental issues with friends and family nearly doubled.

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In Lebanon, where ECODIT promotes sustainable solid waste management (SWM) solutions through the USAID DAWERR Activity, women have also played a key role in mobilizing communities to address long-standing challenges in the country’s SWM sector. ECODIT encouraged women and youth to join local Municipal SWM Committees, which advise municipalities and influence decision-making. The committees now have equal representation of women and men across target municipalities. In addition, DAWERR engages women, youth, and marginalized groups in co-creation workshops, town hall meetings, and community events.

These examples all demonstrate the importance of gender integration to advancing development outcomes and to ensuring sustainability. Building on this work, ECODIT is now working with USAID to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment across the Agency’s Program Cycle. Specifically, for the USAID Gender Leadership, Equity, and Advancement for Development (LEAD) Program, ECODIT and its partners provide collaborative, multi-sectoral gender integration technical assistance to USAID Missions and other Operating Units; promote thought leadership and the development of knowledge products and learning; build connectivity and enhance knowledge sharing platforms for Agency and external stakeholders; and support learning and partnership through small grants to local and under-utilized partners focused on transformative change to promote gender equality and deconstruct harmful social norms and behaviors.

The future of development is bright, and women have a critical role to play in realizing their countries’ full potential. ECODIT is proud to have partnered with USAID and local communities to support women’s meaningful engagement across development sectors and looks forward to amplifying these partnerships in 2024 and beyond.

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