This article explores constraints encountered when using PRA on an ODA-funded natural resources project in a tribal area of Western India. It was particularly evident that women's participation in the PRAs was minimal. The reasons for this were practical (women were not available collectively for long periods of time & there were few women fieldworkers as the project had just begun), social (PRA activities tended to take place in public places where women felt awkward) and methodological (women respond to PRA activities in different ways, sometimes feeling bored and "communicating by singing instead"). The author argues that an organised PRA "gives privilege to certain kinds of knowledge and representation and suppresses others" : the emphasis given to formal knowledge and activities tends to "reinforce the invisibility of women's roles". However, once the formal and public nature of PRA is perceived as a problem, it can become a means by which "women's knowledge and activities.. can be transferred from the informal to the formal arena of project planning", thereby increasing women's profile. Suggestions for encouraging women's participation in PRA include: making non-public contexts (since women are more used to the "private sphere"), using women's knowledge and ways of communicating (songs, sayings, proverbs). There are constraints: the "production of observable outputs (maps, diagrams of PRA) have more status for fieldworkers" than scribbled songs or informal interview notes and women's expressed needs (eg a flour mill) "don't fit easily into established categories of natural resource development".
This article provides a summary of the major challenges currently facing PRA, as well as the changes implied by some of these challenges. The challenges are considered at six different levels, namely the individual, community, organisational, project and programme, donor and policy levels. The challenges identified are drawn from the literature on PRA, as well as from a recent series of workshops held by the author with the staff of six NGOs that are promoting PRA in South Asia. The article concludes by attributing these challenges to five cross-cutting factors: differences in power, culture, knowledge, money and time.
This paper discusses community exchange programmes as a powerful mechanism for increasing the capacity of community organisations to participate in urban development. By enabling communities to share and explore local knowledge created through livelihood struggles, a powerful process is triggered, whereby community exchanges transform development. Through a cumulative process of learning, sharing and collective action, strong sustained and mobilised networks of communities emerge. Central to this has been the sharing of experiences between communities, first at very local levels, then in the city, then nationally and internationally. The development of this methodology by the National Slum Dwellers Association, SPARC (an NGO) and Mahila Milan (a federation of women's cooperatives) in India is described. Exchanges are located within a broader approach to community learning and people's empowerment. Benefits of the exchange process are examined, and the paper reflects on why exchanges are an effective methodology for supporting a process of people-centred development. The necessary conditions for the exchange process to be fully effective are reviewed, which consequently point to the distinct characteristics of the exchange process vis-Ó-vis other participation methodology. It concludes by drawing together some of the wider implications of this approach.