Women, International Development, and Politics: The Bureaucratic Mire

By Kathleen Staudt | Go to book overview

8/The Feminist Agenda in Population Private Voluntary Organizations

Judith Helzner and Bonnie Shepard

Private voluntary organizations, or PVOs, have become important actors on the international development scene. Among the best known to the U.S. public are CARE and Save the Children, but there are many smaller PVOs based in local communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. PVO activities are generally oriented toward either emergency relief efforts or longer- range small-scale development programs designed to help people improve their standard of living. More recently, some observe a move beyond relief and small-scale development to a strategy in which PVOs disseminate their successful experiences among other development agencies. 1

As compared with their government counterparts, PVOs are believed to bring benefits to development work, a result of their small size and field- level staff. In a typical assessment, the World Bank identifies PVO effectiveness to be "the result of many factors: commitment to poverty relief; freedom from bureaucratic procedures and attitudes; scarce funds, which force concentration on priorities and replicable technologies; and their small size, which makes it easier to understand and respond to the needs of local communities." 2

Yet students of PVOs note that the numerous "articles of faith" about PVOs' impact on the poorest members of the communities in which they

____________________
The authors wish to thank the following people for making substantial comments on this article at various stages of its preparation: Susan Bourque, Judith Bruce, Elizabeth Coit, Ruth Dixon- Mueller, Judy Norsigian, Freya Olafson, Carolyn Stremlau, and Norma Swenson. Full responsibility rests with us, however; the reviewers did their job so thoughtfully that there are still many points we have yet to incorporate into our analysis. Preparation of the numerous drafts of the document would not have been possible without the cheerful assistance of Doris Bertzeletos, for whose perfectionism we are most grateful.

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