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Bonded Beyond Borders




GRRIPP South Asia's M&E Coordinator, Raisa Imran Chowdhury reflects on her work and experiences throughout GRRIPP, and offer's her insights and opinions on what it means to be gender-responsive, decolonial, decentralised and feminist.


As the M&E coordinator for the South Asian region, I, Raisa Imran Chowdhury, had the honor of getting to know individuals and projects firsthand! My adventure began in August 2021 when the commissioning project submission call was issued. I can vividly recall our very first meeting to discuss the monitoring standards, evaluation procedure, and selection criteria with my coworkers. The selection board, which consisted of regional advisory board members based within South Asia, chose seven projects from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka to be commissioned as small-scale initiatives to advance gender-responsive understanding and practices out of a total of 27 bids. Although commissioning from a developing nation like Bangladesh (South Asia Lead) initially seemed difficult, our team eventually learnt how to handle transboundary projects after encountering some difficulties with fund transfers. In June 2022, our team successfully organized a final sharing event for our first phase projects where we got to meet our project partners and UCL colleagues (Virginie Le Masson and Olivia Walmsley) in person for the first time, and the awardees grew close to each other and established strong networks.


Photo 1: First phase awardees with GRRIPP South Asia team members and colleagues from London at the Final Dissemination event in June 2022, Dhaka. Photo Credit: GRRIPP South Asia

"I can't quite put into words my first experience of meeting my colleagues for the first time in-person and not on a screen!"

After going to the NEEDS conference in Denmark in 2022, the networking with the M&E team became even more robust. A solo trip to my first-ever Schengen country! I can't quite put into words my first experience of meeting my colleagues for the first time in-person and not on a screen! I've been on one of my life's greatest learning experiences. Speaking as a panelist at the "Assessing Intersectionality: Theory, Policy, Practice and Realities" session, I discussed how South Asia has been using an intersectional lens to monitor commissioning projects and what standards need to be met for more effective assessment processes.


Photo 2: Regional M&E leads at the NEEDS Conference in Demark, 2022. Photo Credit: GRRIPP

Since I'm talking about my experiences working abroad as M&E staff, how can I miss the best part? I am speaking of my aspirations of London! For the purpose of exchanging information and highlighting the incredible work that GRRIPPers have been doing, UCL management arranged a series of seminars for the regional partners, grantees, and other pertinent stakeholders from London. I was lucky to be one of the participants of the March seminar. I had the opportunity to form ties with other regional partners throughout this period. It goes without saying that I was impressed with the results of their work and the methods they used to encourage people in Latin America and South Africa.  Their struggles and journeys moved me. They have taught me that we are all free to have our own storms; it's just not appropriate to include other people in them. This is something we have learned to be a part of.



Photo 3: GRRIPP Projects and Global Teams at the March Seminar week in London, 2023. Photo Credit: UCL

"Their struggles and journeys moved me. They have taught me that we are all free to have our own storms"

I also had the chance to go to the final sharing of the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region in Bogotá, Colombia, in 2023! With Dr. Mahbuba Nasreen, our regional lead, I experienced the longest journey of my life to the other part of the magnificent ocean! With the Latin American recipients (Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic), the training was highly interesting. We were able to delve more into their learning and the many project outputs that addressed themes related to South Asia. The idea of simultaneous translations, which kept us all in the loop from the first to the last day, was something I myself really enjoyed! However, as an added advantage, I now know a few Spanish words. Nevertheless, the bonding which we have built with the awardees and the LAC team was really noteworthy. I can truly call them my well-wishers now! All of them were so full of life and willpower.



Photo 4: Author with GRRIPP LAC team members during the Final Event in Bogota, 2023. Photo Credit: Author

In Bogotá, the regional Monitoring and Evaluation leads had a useful conversation about the final M&E reflections, which Rebecca Cruz and Dr. Sarah Bradshaw, were leading on. I have worked with the most incredible group of M&E colleagues who have become like family! Beyond GRRIPP I am taking forward this bonding which we have developed throughout the journey. Even if some team members leave us before the very end, they have made incredible contributions to GRRIPP and our life. My experience is the same as that of my project partners and the South Asian team. I distinctly recall our first communication together and how we came to a close by organizing the GRRIPP South Asia September Seminar in 2023.


Photo 5: Workshop in Nepal with Curriculum Development Partners and GRRIPP South Asia Team. Photo Credit: GRRIPP South Asia

In between, I had the opportunity to participate in one of the exchange workshops in Nepal which was organized by one of our curriculum development partners of Bangladesh. However, the team managed to incorporate the curriculum development partners of JTSDS (India) for building strong networks with Nepal stakeholders. This is something GRRIPP members thrived to achieve as an outcome – networking plus partnering beyond borders, regions – for making the south-south collaboration stronger than before.


Last but not least, although I was unable to participate in the M&E writing workshop in London in January 2024 due to unforeseen circumstances, my teammates kept me informed on their progress and learning process on a daily basis. Dr. Sarah Bradshaw, Rebecca Cruz, and Olivia Walmsley handled my part very professionally on behalf of South Asia, for which I will always be thankful and gratified.


Moving Beyond Borders


Regarding GRRIPP as decentralizing, decolonizing, and feminist, I still have some opinions that I would like to express to a bigger audience. The most important thing was to believe in the ability of the awardees and accurately assess the value of their proposals in order to select the best ones, rather than giving them any explicit instructions. Furthermore, the thematic areas allowed a variety of viewpoints, interpretations, and approaches to the concept of intersectionality. For instance, one grassroots organization that promoted women's rights in Bangladesh encountered opposition. But they began incorporating males and local authorities into their meetings, and they quickly began to embrace the idea of gender-responsive interventions. In order to first convey this notion in somewhat conservative nations, GRRIPP South Asia concentrated more on women, people with disabilities, and third gender communities than on LGBTQ+ populations. Subsequently, the team organized a debate competition among universities in South Asia including subjects such as the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, radical versus liberal feminism, and social inclusion. We witnessed an amazing example of how to define the new notion of cultural resilience through the use of indigenous and hereditary knowledge and resources from Brazil. A GRRIPP LAC project from Chile created a game like to monopoly that would explain various buzzwords and jargons to both adults and kids. All in all, it had a significant effect.


Personally, I had the opportunity to observe some of the sustainable and timely interventions which are in place after completing the GRRIPP South Asia project timeline. Curriculums on ‘Gender, DRR and Intersectionality’ has been institutionalized and been replicated in many mind-liked departments, courses, trainings. Being the trailblazers, our awardees have the chance to share knowledge with a larger audience across national borders. If I must discuss the obstacles, I must bring up the project timetable. Demonstrating a noticeable effect during a six-month programme is exceptionally challenging. In order to maintain long-term viability, we must establish a platform that links GRRIPP grantees and promotes collaboration whenever and wherever it is feasible, given that they receive funding from outside donors and include intersectionality into their work. The IRDR Center for Gender and Disaster can provide grantees with information to facilitate decentralization by enabling various organizations to submit bids for projects and assume leadership roles beyond GRRIPP.


"We need to question if we are still decolonizing ourselves by adhering to colonial guidelines when we discuss decolonization."

To achieve decolonization, academic research must involve more field trips to colonized nations in order to comprehend how colonized those nations mental models are, if not their actual behaviors, and how to resist falling back on colonial concepts. Again, we need to question if we are still decolonizing ourselves by adhering to colonial guidelines when we discuss decolonization. For the global north to have a better understanding of decolonization, more scholarly publications in other languages need to be translated into English. Developing gender responsiveness is an ongoing process. There isn't a single, comprehensive answer to end all forms of discrimination experienced by marginalized communities. In this regard, there can never be a one-size-fits-all approach. To make things sustainable, academic practitioners and researchers should collaborate more. If participation is possible in the advocacy process for mainstreaming intersectional perspectives, then local government empowerment may also be fundamental. GRRIPP network resources can also be utilized for improving current policies through the usage of strategic frameworks and recommendations from the awardees.


Photo 6: Author at University College London, 2023. Photo Credit: Author

My journey does not end with GRRIPP serving as the Regional M&E Coordinator of South

Asia, as to me, GRRIPP is more than simply a term—it's an emotion. In my future endeavors to spread the word about intersectionality and gender responsiveness, I will be bringing the lessons I've learned with me. My sincere gratitude and best wishes go out to Professors Dr. Maureen Fordham and Mahbuba Nasreen for providing me with an amazing role that allowed us to bond beyond borders!







 

Raisa Imran Chowdhury is the M&E Lead for GRRIPP South Asia and is based at Dhaka University, Bangladesh.


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