Villagers' perceptions and experiences of local NGOs in the Thecho village, Nepal

Risal, Subas (2013). Villagers' perceptions and experiences of local NGOs in the Thecho village, Nepal PhD Thesis, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland.

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Author Risal, Subas
Thesis Title Villagers' perceptions and experiences of local NGOs in the Thecho village, Nepal
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Work and Human Services
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2013
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Howard Karger
Margaret Shapiro
Deborah Setterlund
Total pages 174
Language eng
Subjects 160799 Social Work not elsewhere classified
Formatted abstract
Non-government Organizations (NGOs), at both global and local levels have emerged as important development actors particularly in poorer countries like Nepal. NGOs’ partnership in development is largely guided by policy agendas encapsulated in a number of international agreements such as United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UNMDGs). A range of development studies is available regarding NGOs but the emphasis is given to the factors that influence the successes and failures of NGO development program activities. The voices of intended beneficiaries of NGO services are rarely central to NGO research. Understanding local social and cultural contexts that shape people’s perceptions and experiences of local NGOs has remained an under researched area. Nepali society is characterized by rigid social structural factors of caste, ethnicity and gender that determine people’s status and power and therefore their life chances and wellbeing. There is a lack of understanding of the Nepalese community context in which NGOs operate in terms of social factors of caste, ethnicity and gender.

This research aimed to capture the voices of villagers to gain an in depth understanding at a community level of how villagers in Thecho village who are diverse in terms of caste, ethnicity and gender interact with NGOs in one village in Nepal. The research sought to understand how caste, ethnic and gender relationships influence villagers’ perceptions of their interactions with local NGOs in terms of access to NGO resources, participation in NGO activities and decision making, perceived development priorities and the match between identified development priorities and NGOs services, and factors that could enhance the performance of NGOs. This study drew on theories of power proposed mainly by Max Weber and John Gaventa to guide an analysis at different levels.

The data collection involved a survey of 87 villagers of different caste and ethnic backgrounds; semi structured interviews with three key informants; and semi structured interviews with three NGO workers. Purposive sampling was employed as the sampling design. The population of high caste groups in the village was higher than lower castes and ethnic groups. Nonetheless, this research sought to foreground the experiences of the most vulnerable groups and hence the number of the respondents belonging to low caste and ethnic groups and women purposively was made higher. Lower caste and ethnic group villagers comprised almost 60 per cent of the total respondents. The survey included both closed ended and open ended questions intended to gather quantitative and qualitative data respectively. Interviews with three key informants provided important information about services offered by NGOs in the village. Eight NGOs were selected for the study. Information from three NGO workers provided insights into challenges faced in conducting NGO programs at the village level.

Study findings show that the three higher castes, particularly Newars are in a position of power in relation to other groups and generally appear to benefit most from the services offered by the selected NGOs in the village. The percentage of three higher castes in terms of awareness of the existence of NGOs, access to NGO services and participation in NGO activities was higher than that of lower castes and ethnic groups. Most of the villagers interviewed reported that the services provided by the NGOs selected for the study did not match their development priorities. When the information in relation to factors that could improve NGO performance was sought from the villagers, there were three clear messages: a) NGOs should focus on pressing development priorities; b) NGOs need to target the more marginalized groups; and c) NGOs should support existing informal self-help initiatives in the village.

The study provides insights into the way in which power relationships operate to advantage some groups and to disadvantage others. It was found that lower castes and ethnic groups had very little involvement in development ‘space’ provided by NGOs and that these groups have taken the initiative to create ‘spaces’ for themselves in the development arena.

Key implications arising from the study include the need for flexible global policies and funding that take account of localised development needs. At the local level greater recognition of diversity and power relations as well as the capacity to build coalitions across diverse groups is needed by NGO workers. Most importantly local NGOs could improve performance and build capacity in local communities by supporting existing self-help initiatives.
Keyword Caste
Overseas development aid
Non-government organization

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Created: Sun, 16 Mar 2014, 15:17:57 EST by Subas Risal on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service