Many development agencies from America & Europe are doing extraordinary work in many strife torn countries of Africa and Asia. There well intentioned efforts are often met with resistance from the populace, prisoners of in age old culture and customs. They consider any community development activity to be an encroachment into their well protected domain.
Any community development or capacity building activity has to be conceived staying within and respecting the cultural parameters. Cause can never be divorced from the culture. Africa & Asia are comprised of many religious and non-religious groups. The major religious cultures are Muslim, Christians (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and others), ethnic religionist, non-Christian, Hindu and Baha’i.
If you are working on Gender Based Violence eradication program, or HIV awareness program, you need to be very careful. Each religion, each ethnic group needs a different approach to tackle the same problem. Some groups may not be open to outsiders redressing their problems. They have their own inbuilt system of redressing grievance. Some other groups may not like awareness programs being conducted for their girls, & women. Some Muslim groups strictly implement Shariat rules which place restrictions on the movements & dress code for women.
It is always better to meet and take into confidence the tribe or village head and involve him in the activities, and follow his advice. Many organizations which haven’t followed this have faced revolt from the communities and consequently failed in their programs.
I feel that before embarking on a program of rehabilitation. It is always necessary to make a detailed study about the region the culture the people. The geographic and demographic intelligence play an important role in the success of any capacity building and development program.