The Indispensable yet Misunderstood CAGE Animateur: What’s Wrong with Some International Sustainable Development Projects in Girls’ Education and how they can be Improved

Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Nikoi Kote-Nikoi


This paper seeks to analyze the role of animateurs in the execution of the Community Action for Girls’ Education (CAGE) project in Benin, West Africa, during the period of my involvement as a CAGE intern from September, 2002 to March, 2003. Animateurs, or field workers, are at the front end of carrying out this educational project, serving to influence parents in rural Benin about the importance of education and therefore the need to enroll their children in school and to keep them there to complete at least a minimum level of education. The relationship between the project design of CAGE and the work of the animateurs is significant in assessing their ability to work effectively in carrying out their specific charge- to “animate” parents and communities about the role and importance of girls’ education. To this end this paper poses the question: Does CAGE’s project design and the attitudes of its administrative staff help or hinder the effectiveness of the animateurs in the field?

I relied heavily on my own observations as a project participant in formulating opinions about CAGE staff and the role and effectiveness of the animateurs. The dynamics between these two groups of participants often was antagonistic, which led me to question how power relationships impact project results. To extend my own observations I devised questionnaires that were distributed to CAGE staff, the staff at the Research and Action Center for the Well-Being and Safeguarding of the Environment (CERABE), a partner agency in the project, CAGE interns, and animateurs.

The response from those asked to complete the questionnaires was nearly 100 percent. The analysis of the respondents indicated that each group felt differently about


the CAGE project depending on their position in the hierarchy. The animateurs and the interns at the lower end of the hierarchy unequivocally believed that hierarchical relationships caused difficulties that proved hard to overcome, although the animateurs were less likely to attribute blame to CAGE and CERABE staff. Interns did not have the same reservations, perhaps because they were temporarily employed and the animateurs were not. CAGE and CERABE staff was likely to blame others, particularly the animateurs, when the number of successes declined or when faults were revealed in completing an aspect of the project itself. Power relationships seemed to color the perspective of the viewer when faulting project performance goals and hindered the effectiveness of the animateurs.

This study can be utilized in several ways: by interested parties at SIT; by NGOs; and by those interested in sustainable development projects and project design. Even so, the field is clear for additional studies that would include animateur responses to similar questions from other regions in Benin, NGO partners from other regions, and the World Learning DC staff who can provide an overview of this study and similar projects.


International and Comparative Education

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