How to change project approaches for different contexts

Written by Isabella Muthoni, Equality Now

Please describe a real-life problem your organisation has faced when implementing a project.

Equality Now uses a unique combination of legal advocacy, regional partnership-building, community mobilisation and strategic litigation to promote equality and set legal precedents to create a just world where women and girls have the same rights as men and boys.

In our work to end harmful practices in the Africa Continent, we have found that sometimes a certain project approach like strategic litigation will not be successful in one country, despite that it has worked in another country in the same region with similar circumstances.

External factors, such as political climates, systemic conditions and cultural barriers mean we must always be prepared to carefully consider and evaluate the most effective approach throughout the implementation of a project. This ensures that we, as an organisation and together with our partners, use the best approach for each particular situation.

How did you work on and try to overcome this problem?

A good example of where we had to review and amend our project implementation approach is the work with did in Uganda beginning in 2016, where we originally were planning to use strategic litigation to address the issue of child marriage.

However, after holding consultative meetings with our partners and liaising with lawyers in the country, we realised that this approach was going to require a larger budget than planned. We therefore had to find another approach to be able to implement our project and decided to collaborate and engage with actors and organisations that are already working on the issue, such as the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, other national CSO’s and the End Child Marriage Network in Uganda.

Together we have been able to raise the interest for a Marriage Bill (that will harmonise the age of marriage at 18 years for both boys and girls) among the Uganda Women Parliamentarians, who are now asking the Minister of Justice to bring the Bill to the Parliament.

Thus, as result of us changing our project implementation approach, we have been able to be an even stronger voice on the issue of child marriage in Uganda.

What did you learn from this experience?

We have learnt that timing the execution of a project intervention is very important and that it may be affected by factors that could be out of our control. Governments can change and the operating environment may become hostile or restrictive, making it challenging to proceed as planned.

We have also learnt that the Government of the day may be accommodative or have the good will to talk about a ‘harmful policy’ or the issue at hand and, when that happens, we should be collaborate together to achieve the desired impact for the good of women and girls’ rights.

What are your tips for someone facing the same or similar issues?

For organisations or someone facing the similar issues:

Flexibility and adaptability – Stay flexible and keep an open mind on the different approaches to employ in order to address the intended issue yet still achieve the desired impact.

Always inform the funder – Keep an open communication line with your funder or funders so that if your organisation chooses another approach or intervention mid project, the organisation is in a position to inform funders of the new approach and justify risks that may occur with that change of approach, particularly with regards to contractual obligations

Isabella Muthoni, Equality Now

Isabella Muthoni is a Grants Officer at Equality Now, where she provides guidance on grants management and processes. Isabella works closely with the programme, communication and finance teams to ensure compliance with donor requirements, timely submissions, accurate grant reporting, preparation of project proposals and development of project budgets. Isabella has experience in project design and developing quality proposals as well as increasing funding and diversifying funding sources for the organisation. Isabella is an Advocate of the High Court in Kenya, a feminist lawyer and a champion for women’s human rights and equality.

Equality Now