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Supporting women led networks

Ibtida (‘the beginning’ in Urdu) is a collective leadership development program that began in 2002 to support a network of organizations from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. The program aims to build the capacity of women-led organizations at the community level and to support women representatives of these organizations beyond the top leaders and get into the process from individual to organizational to community development strategies and actions. The program helps to ensure local-level movement building through the creation of strong networks of community-based organizations and to enhance the use of formal and informal human rights mechanisms at the local level. This is achieved by enhancing the leadership capacities of organizational leaders and ensuring that they have access to information that would enable them to demand their rights and alter their position within society – economically, politically, and socially.

Earlier when my family members did not allow me to go for meetings, then I felt that all my family members are very concerned and worried for my safety. But after attending trainings, I realized that actually they are making me weak and under confident. Now I am more confident and have started going for meetings all alone.

Ibitda member organization staff | 2017

With Ibtida, CREA organizes trainings and workshops that provide issue-based explorations on sexuality, gender, violence against women, and human rights as well as opportunities for the sharing of challenges and achievements. Ibtida members are continuously applying these learnings to influence their own families, organizations, and communities. Examples range from reexamining and breaking biases around religion and practices in order to reach and interact with different communities to using their enhanced concepts around gender roles in rearing their children and encouraging their sons to do household chores and daughters to do outdoor tasks. At the organizational level, some have policies that are gender-sensitive and rights-affirming – for example, male and female staff members share roles and responsibilities which were earlier allocated in a gender-stereotypical way. Within the organization, female staff are promoted and equal pay for equal work is practiced. Male staff are equally sensitized around the issues of gender and gender justice. The feminist lens which is intersectional is now the lens of Ibtida!

CREA continues to lead the Ibtida network to forge newer ways of feminist interventions in their states while also working on deepening the feminist identity and politics of the network.

Ibtida members deepen their understanding of feminist leadership, sexuality, and gender rights.  Through the network, members have also understood and undertaken mentoring processes to support like-minded women in the community. Ibtida members have shared that the program has influenced their personal outlook and increased their awareness of ongoing discrimination and their own rights.

Ibtida member organizations have developed a feminist lens in their work with the community and added structure to everyday work and also when designing growth and strategizing the future of the organizations.

As Ibtida allows for cross-learning across the Ibtida network, the organizations have learnt from each other – practices and operational structures. The network has also created opportunities for the organizations to support each other, build a common understanding on SGR issues, and take joint action. Ibtida actively participates every year in campaigns and movements led by CREA and CREA consortia. The Ibtida network has actively led community-based advocacy during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence global campaign during which  30 organizations from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar come together to express solidarity through various cultural programs and local level engagements. In addition, Ibtida has joined previous other CREA campaigns including the “Suspend Judgment” campaign engaging feminists to reflect critically on deep rooted assumptions, “Nazariya Badlo” and the “Count Me In” campaign.  Ibtida has been a strong point of engagement for all communities working and strengthening movement building in India. Every year with Ibtida CREA reaches more than 30,000 women, girls, sex workers, trans persons, and women with disabilities, directly to spread awareness on gender rights and gender justice.