Measuring success in terms of the things that don’t happen

In the development sector, metrics matter. In our day-to-day work at Center for Girls (CFG), we have the ability to see the results of our programs firsthand. We encourage women who have participated in our Women for Change program as they run for office in their respective villages, and win! We watch and support women as they emerge as leaders within their communities, as they stand up and use their voice while campaigning against gender-based violence. We feel motivated by the reach of Women for Change every time we run into participants at the market, at local events, and when visiting the different sub-districts of Chiang Khong to implement our many programs. We know our community is positively impacted by our work because we have a front row seat, but how do we quantify empowerment? How do we measure safety for women?

For over two decades, CFG has fought for the rights of women and children. We are viewed as a ‘safe space’ within the community, and many have turned to CFG and our partner organisations to seek help and to refer emergency cases. Most recently, we have had young mothers come directly to CFG in need of support, advice, and care as they transition from young adulthood into unplanned motherhood. We can easily point to the number of emergency cases we respond to; the number of women and their unborn children and the number of mothers with young children whom we support. But how do we measure our actual impact?

Recently, CFG hosted field officers from UN Women who visited to learn more about our programs. Together, we explored the shared programmatic goals of UN Women and CFG, and engaged in important conversations about opportunities for partnership, focusing particularly on initiatives against the trafficking of women. Participants from CFG’s Women for Change program, which began in 2016, shared stories of their work with UN Women. They reflected on how increased knowledge and awareness of the issues surrounding gender equality and women’s rights has led to positive changes happening their own lives and communities. They all cited Women for Change, with its workshops and educational programs, as the launching point from where their path towards empowerment began.

A large part of CFG’s mission is to eliminate human trafficking in northern Thailand. The 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report recognizes Thailand as a source, transit, and destination country, where men, women, and children can be subjected to forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. As part of our ongoing efforts to eradicate and prevent human trafficking across northern Thailand we continue to campaign in schools and at markets, and strengthen ties with local police and immigration officers, government officials, business owners, and teachers. We believe in equal rights for all workers, regardless of gender, ethnicity, nationality or citizenship, age, and sociocultural status, and as such we work to prevent trafficking through the education of employers, employees, and job-seekers, the promotion of resources, strong networks, key partnerships, and vigilant community watchdogs. But measuring what you have prevented is nearly impossible – how can you measure the absence of an issue?

At CFG, these are the types of questions we tackle regularly. When it comes to our aim of shifting cultural attitudes, it is important to realize that results do not come instantly. While women rising to power in local communities and collaboration with global organizations like UN Women serve as examples of our hard work and thoughtful, effective, community-based programming coming to fruition, sometimes the results of today’s efforts can be challenging to pinpoint and quantify. CFG has remained dedicated to fighting for the rights of women and children for more than twenty years, and we are so proud to be a part of this growth.

Our ultimate aim is to make the work we do obsolete and at CFG, we often measure success in terms of the things that do not happen. Success is: fewer and fewer instances of gender-based violence, a reduction in emergency cases, a decrease in the number of trafficked persons; and the absence of all forms of abuse against women and children.

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