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Creation by International Organizations of Conflict Situations in Host Countries: A Failure Case


Creation by International Organizations of Conflict Situations in Host Countries: A Failure Case

Mary Cusick, a former MBA student (in 2001), submitted an assignment in which she described conflict situations that arose when an international development organization from the first world made an intervention in a third world country. Cusick had worked for this organization as an evaluation analyst. She had not, however, worked on a development project in a third world country herself. The report in her assignment was based on informal discussions she had with various colleagues.

The project she described was responsible for empowering women in the rural areas of certain third world countries. The project's main purpose was to lift poor rural women out of poverty. The women targeted were living in villages bereft of adult men, who had migrated to urban centres, lured by the hope of obtaining jobs and making it big. Some failed to return; others were absent for extended periods of time. Meanwhile, the women had to contend with poverty. They were also little educated and suffered from malnutrition-related ailments. They were therefore not able to manage their meagre resources or cultivate crops in a manner that would yield profit.

The international development organization project gave the women small loans to be used for specified purposes, as well as training in crop management and farming, and personal finance management. Gradually the women started managing matters in their village. Their conditions of living began to improve. They began to buy modern farm equipment which they learnt to operate to optimal benefit. Their health also began to improve. The project was termed a success by the international development organization. Its main purpose had been met.

What the project had not recorded or taken into account was the social dislocation these women experienced, paradoxically because they had become more independent. When their menfolk returned to the villages, they were displeased to find that their wives no longer depended on or were subservient to them. The traditional norm of male dominance, emanating from the men's role as breadwinners, no longer applied. Some men could not accept this and took recourse to domestic violence.

In this case study, an intervention by an international development agency resulted in its beneficiaries being placed in conflict situations. This arose because the development agency had not understood the culture of the villages where it had introduced its project. Consequently its project was poorly designed and implemented. It should have kept in mind that development is not one-dimensional, and a model of development that works in one country need not apply in another culture. A few of the points the agency was ignorant about were:


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