Hello UNABU team and OpenIDEO, For transparency -- I am with the Disability Rights Fund and we have been funding UNABU's program on disability inclusion. Lucky me also visited the women's groups program when we were in Rwanda. I'm also familiar with grassroots women's programs from all over the world (including as a Peace Corps Volunteer!) and of course, with human centered design.
What did I find unique about UNABU? All over the world, funders have supported grassroots women's programs that provide self confidence, awareness building, savings groups, and income generation activities (IGA). But very rarely do we find those that support women with disabilities that are also designed with women with disabilities as active participants and beneficiaries -- this to me is what is at the core of human centered design and empowerment.
For UNABU, getting an IDEO award would open up opportunities for them to a vast global network of practitioners and thinkers who could introduce them to new ideas and ways of doing things. Or even applying tried and true ways of community development and empowerment like savings and IGA, traditional development approaches to approaches for women with disabilities?
Some of the comments ask about how this group would include others (men, women's groups), but I'd like to also see how mainstream groups can also open their arms to be inclusive of women with disabilities. The problem has been that community groups and elders, mainstream women's rights programs have not been inclusive and so this is why there is a program that is targeting women with disabilities. I have seen projects where with an intense focus on extremely poor women in a village (in Bangladesh with BRAC), brought a new sense of recognition to women by men and others that were not there. Yes, I think we all need to be expansive, but it goes both ways.
Some of the comments ask for specific plans about how loan programs etc work -- the great thing about IDEO's methodology is that we can try things, take risks, and prototype and see what works. Unlike the standard development project with a clear path -- this project presents an opportunity to pilot and learn at the same time. Hopefully IDEO will allow us to look at risk and "project" development in a whole new way.
Hopefully, with the exposure to IDEO there will be more attention to UNABU and the issues facing women with disabilities in Rwanda and in other countries around the world.
Let's keep asking questions, let's keep learning, and let's support great projects and people like UNABU and their team!