Gender Action Learning Systems

Gender at Work Action Learning Program as an Approach to Furthering Gender Equality

SCOEN has adopted a Gender Action-Learning Systems (GALS) to address women’s rights and gender equality within civil society organisations, international organizations and other development institutions. The Systems is built on adult learning principles and values reflective space, recognizing that reflection on both the self and on organizational practice is a key tool for learning and effective action. Another key factor in the Gender Action-Learning Systems is the ability for people to work together and to learn from each other.

70% of women and men GALS implementer in India, South Africa and South Sudan report changed attitudes and behaviours in their personal lives, their organizations and their community over four years and under our Feminist Leadership Systemsme.

SCOEN have recognized the limits of traditional gender mainstreaming approaches and are seeking alternatives. SCOEN approach promotes women’s empowerment and gender equality through addressing institutional norms and rules (both stated and implicit) that maintain women’s unequal position in societies.

These institutional rules determine who gets what, what counts, who does what and who decides. They include values that maintain the gendered division of labor, prohibitions on women owning land, restrictions on women’s mobility and perhaps most fundamentally, the devaluing of reproductive and care work. Institutional rules are lived out through organizations which are the social structures that exist in any society.

Through the Gender Action Learning Systems, we combine feminist thinking and practice with insights from organizational development, to build internal cultures of equality and transform cultural norms that support achieving gender equality and social justice.

gender action learning systems steps

Inception workshop: SCOEN explores whether a Gender Action-Learning Systems would be helpful.

Community visits: SCOEN visit the community groups we work with, map its history, understand its work, understand how it promotes gender equality, its capacity and the potential directions that exist for change.

Workshop 1: Telling Stories, Sharing Doubts and Re-thinking the Work: community groups tell their story and SCOEN introduces key ideas of individual, and community change, as the beginning of building a learning community. Each team meets with their facilitator and develops a gender equality change project.

Work in groups: Participants carry out a change project in their groups and communities.

Workshop 2: Telling our Stories, Re-vitalizing our Practice: groups describe and analyze their change efforts, while other participants and facilitators offer analysis and advice. Teams plan the next stage of their change work.

Work in groups: Groups continue to work on their projects with the support of a facilitator.

Final workshop: Participants pull together their collective learning from all the change projects.

Girl-Friendly Latrine to Boost School Attendance

Overriding goal of the project is to ensure Girls from 5 schools in Soroti District, Uganda will not have to miss school simply because they are menstruating. The project aims to install sanitary facilities by construction of 5 VIP Latrines, each with a water tank (rain harvest), well-furnished changing room for girls, and provision of hand washing facilities to support vulnerable girls. With your donation, we will enable girls to manage their periods and improve girl's education.

Challenge

At school, girls are faced with poor facilities -inadequate water for washing, lack of soap, no privacy and non-functioning or insufficient toilets. This reduces school attendance and often leads to girls dropping out of school during their menstrual periods. Adolescent girls are often absent from school due, in part, to inadequate water, sanitation facilities. At all times, girls need facilities that provide privacy, security to avoid risk of harassment.

Solution

The project aim is to construct 5 latrines of 5 stances each with wash rooms/changing room and to provide reliable clean washing water for girls of menstruating age in 5 schools identified in the Soroti district. Also, to reduce the high pupil to latrines ratio and provide a separate girls' pit-latrine with washing facilities and clean water in the 5 schools, this will ensure school attendance of girls during menstruation and increase the number of girls with qualifications.

Long-Term Impact

By the end of the project 5 public schools shall serve as role models in providing girls' sanitation facilities and capacity building for 2000 rural young but sexually maturing girls. Menstrual management, drop-outs for girls are expected to reduce considerably. 5 girl-friendly latrines constructed in 5 schools with washing facilities and clean water will ensure school attendance of girls during menstruation and increase the number of girls with qualifications.

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Drinking water for a primary school in Uganda

SCOEN plans to connect tap water to Akaikai Primary School which is a government aided school found in Soroti, Uganda and the only better performing school. Akaikai has a Population of 1034 pupils and is a beneficiary of SCOEN's WASH Program (Girl-Friendly Latrines to girls school attendance) whereby a latrine is been constructed. You donation will provide drinking water, improve their grades, pupils spend much time toiling for clean drinking water 2.3Kms away from school.

Challenge

When approaching the School one can't help but smile upon hearing the unavoidable sound of more than 1024 pupils playing while others confidently recite their alphabet. The pupils walk 2.3Km to find clean drinking water, also lack basic infrastructure such as clean latrines and safe water supply. This is a reason for children to be absent and drop out from school eventually. Water supply is not available in school, so teachers/children have to bring water from other sources about 3Kms away.

Solution

This project will provide clean and sanitary drinking water (Tap Water) and 2 secured storage tanks, improving the health and future of the Learners. SCOEN believes that all children should have clean water and access to life-changing health and hygiene education. Our goal is to provide quality water to Akaikai Primary School, essential to SCOEN's strategic focus in Soroti.

Long-Term Impact

Through this project children will attend class fully, improve on their grades, creates a plentiful source of low cost refreshment throughout the day; encourages good health and wellbeing among pupils and staff; reduces tiredness, irritability and distraction from thirst; can have a positive effect on pupils' concentration throughout the day and school.

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Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda

SCOEN proposes an innovative approach to end child marriage through the use of digital technologies. We aim to provide young and teenaged girls with the tools they need to participate in community decision-making to take charge of their own futures. Through the creation of "Digital Learning Clubs and Spaces" and "Life Schools" for girls and young women, the program educates girls about sexual and reproductive rights and health, use political and community advocacy to end child marriage.

Challenge

Child marriage is a major impediment to girls' and women's human rights and to overall development. In Uganda today, a staggering over 37% women were married as children, and 10% married before their 15th birthday. The tradition of dowries contributes to the prevalence of child marriage in girls often serve as payment for debt between one family and another. Such customs deprive girls and women of their rights and undermine efforts to improve girls & women status.

Solution

The program aims to provide community members with access to and training in the use of digital technologies to obtain and disseminate information about children's rights, to raise awareness about the harms of child marriage, to advocate to end child marriage, and to make them aware of the means of prevention. The objective is to harness digital technologies to facilitate and catalyze awareness-raising about child marriage and to strengthen lobbying to put an end to this harmful practice.

Long-Term Impact

Your giving will provide 120 young women with training to lead "Girls' Parliaments" enabling them to become change agents in their communities and to contribute to raising community awareness about children's rights, child marriage, and women's sexual and reproductive health and rights, equip parents with the knowledge they need to be effective advocates of girls' and women's rights and to be able to take action to end child marriage. Together, we can end child marriage!

Lessons learned: how to set up a village savings and loan association

After setting up a successful savings group pilot in the Arapai Sub County, Soroti, SCOEN share tips for other NGOs starting a VSLA

After it generated more than an average 40% return on investment for savers, showed evidence of benefits for women and reducing tension between ethnic groups, we are scaling up our pilot village savings and loans association (VSLA) programme in the Soroti District.

Despite our successes, the pilot didn’t run perfectly, so we want to share what we learned in the hope it might be useful for other NGOs entering this field with little or no prior experience in running VSLAs.

Research and observe

We spent a long time researching different microfinance and microcredit models before opting to explore the VSLA model after concerns about the overheated income-generation claims associated with microfinance. We reminded ourselves that our goal was to include the most disadvantaged groups in the region, people without assets for security, access to social relations, markets and financial literacy.

Savings and loans models were the best option, but we knew there was an “off-the-shelf” attitude to this approach. Having the opportunity to visit local VSLA groups cannot be underestimated – as with many complex programmes, it is only through observation and discussion with participants that one starts to gain a greater understanding of how the ideas can transfer to a different context.

Recruit the right team

The major expenditure related to VSLAs is staff costs. Unexpectedly, we found the appointment of three good field agents (FAs) more important than a strong team leader. The FAs need to have expert knowledge of local power dynamics, and be able to gain the respect and trust of local communities. However, as VSLAs are self-managed, they must also be able to guide rather than impose. Interestingly, we found that recruiting those with too much local influence can result in an awkward power dynamics.

For example, we recruited a well-educated, very thoughtful and well-connected local man who also happened to be a customary chief (local leader).In hindsight, he shouldn’t have been recruited – his role as leader came before his VSLA work. It created a hierarchy with VSLA members defaulting to him, rather than feeling comfortable in their own leadership. The other two FAs were younger, from the area, but with no customary leadership roles. The dynamics of these groups were much better.

Tap into the VSLA community

There is a global VSLA community – tap into it. VSL Associates and Savings Groups are the two major VSLA platforms – on these you will find ready-made training materials and online discussion groups. Seek out local VSLA programmes and see if you and your project team can visit them too.

Take a patient, open approach

We stuck very rigidly to the pure VSLA approach, but when we realised the pilot was taking longer than we had planned, we extended the time limit, rather than rushed to complete before we were ready. Our communities have coped with conflict and displacement, so are very resilient and are used to living with little or no state support, but it still needs to be clear what is expected of all parties. When we visit groups there is still often a request for us to ‘help’ by topping-up the kitty. This underlines the importance of open dialogue right from the beginning.

Dedicate time and money to monitoring, evaluation and learning

Because we wanted to track not just economic and membership data but impact on nutrition, shelter, education, health, women’s empowerment and social status, – monitoring, evaluation and learning has been the heaviest time burden on the team. It definitely needs to be planned and budgeted for.

Scaling up, we have invested in an assistant team leader to support this process. But as field agents built up excellent relationships with VSLA members, the learning gleaned is second to none. Qualitative assessment produced the real surprises, showing there was a consistent shift away from men dominating household decision making to joint decision making between husband and wife. The social benefits of the VSLAs in terms of social cohesion and intra-communal solidarity also seemed to carry as much weight as the financial benefits. And curiously, social norms of who owns livestock appear to be breaking down, with women and Ipei groups aspiring to own household development.

Getting feedback from participants also has showed us that we previously had a very limited view of how people manage their financial affairs on the plateau. Other credit and perhaps savings arrangements exist within the communities, and the key thing next is to understand is how VSLAs can improve the process of managing and planning complex lives, rather than imagining VSLAs replace them because they are better.

What was our impact?

Social impact is a notoriously tricky area to measure, and we feel we have only just started to scratch the surface through the findings mentioned above. How did our pilot compare to the performance of VSLAs elsewhere? This is difficult to say. Pilots tend to be more resource and support intensive, and perhaps coax out better performance than full scale programmes.

We know that there is a conditional VSLA programme also currently in the region that is linked to sending orphans to school. This is not a direct comparison to ours. We had toyed with the idea of explicitly linking the VSLAs to child wellbeing and education, since this reflects our mission as an organisation, but concluded pilots need to be stripped of unwarranted assumptions and external demands.

Violence in school affects learning for both girls and boys

While boys and girls can be both victims and perpetrators of SRGBV, girls are often at greater risk of sexual violence, whilst boys are often more exposed to corporal punishment and bullying. Teachers and school staff -important partners addressing SRGBV – can also be perpetrators, in some cases acting with impunity. Poorly enforced legislation, inadequate child protection policies and weak or non-existent reporting mechanisms all increase children’s vulnerability to SRGBV.

SRGBV has serious consequences for children’s physical and mental health and well-being. It has been shown to adversely impact learning, school attendance and completion. New analysis presented in our paper shows that bullying affects boys’ and girls’ ability to master basic numeracy skills.

Sexual violence is a highly destructive form of SRGBV that contributes to girls’ poor performance and dropout. Unintended pregnancy resulting from sexual coercion and rape effectively marks the end of their education in many countries.

While increased advocacy and recognition of SRGBV has been a positive trend in recent years, we still do not know its full scale or impact. Reliable international data are lacking on the various forms of SRGBV and on sexual violence in particular.
Evidence across and within countries is uneven and incomplete. Cross-national surveys and learning assessments that collect data on violence within school settings have generally focused on physical violence and bullying, and have not always applied a gender perspective.

Uganda declares ending HIV/AIDS by 2030

Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said Uganda was fully committed to achieving zero infections.

Uganda has adopted a Political Declaration by the United Nations General Assembly, to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 within the framework of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Uganda was one of the member states at the United Nations General Assembly high level meeting on ending AIDS in New York, United States of America, that adopted the declaration.

Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda who represented President Yoweri Museveni at the meeting said the Government of Uganda supports the declaration that commits to bold strategies, aimed at ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.

Rugunda said Government was working with development partners, the private sector, civil society, religious and cultural leaders and communities to combat the scourge.

“The focus of the Uganda National AIDS response has been to implement high impact structural, behavioral and biomedical interventions on a sufficient scale and intensity in order to achieve HIV epidemic control,” he said.

According to the Premier, Government was striving towards zero new infections, zero HIV related mortality and morbidity and zero discrimination by strengthening the adolescent HIV/AIDS programmes, adopting the test and treat policy as well as ensuring sustained financing for the HIV/AIDS response through legislation that established the AIDS Trust fund.

“We also stand by the common African position to this United Nations General Assembly high level meeting that advocates for 95:95:95 targets by 2030,” he said.

In the recent budget reading by Matia Kasaija, the designated Minister of Finance, Government pledged to continue prioritizing the implementation of the National Prevention Strategy of HIV/AIDS and also expand Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) coverage to 80%, with an emphasis on testing and treatment of the ‘most-at- risk’ population, and elimination of Mother to Child Transmission.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicated that at the end of 2015, the number of new HIV infections had declined from 162,000 in 2011 to 83,265 while the prevalence among HIV exposed infants reduced from 19% in 2007 to 3% by the end of 2015.

In addition, the number of AIDS related deaths have declined from 63,000 in 2011 to 28,000 by December 2015.

Some of the challenges that must be overcome to fast-track HIV/AIDS response include the fact that only 55%of Ugandans have ever tested for HIV while 43% of those eligible for treatment are not receiving it.

The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft said the global community was united in its resolution to end the AIDS epidemic within the framework of the SDGs.

“We have to be accountable for the commitments we make leaving no one behind,” Lykketoft said, adding that eradicating AIDS will be one of the greatest achievements of this generation.

The General Assembly was also addressed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon who said everyone affected must have access to comprehensive HIV services without discrimination.

The United Nations General Assembly meeting on ending AIDS was convened by the President of the UN General Assembly and co-facilitated by Switzerland and Zambia.

Rugunda said the Uganda population HIV impact assessment survey, which is set to commence in July 2016, will provide Government with better and current estimates of the number of people infected with HIV and thus better estimate of the first 90 target.

Child marriage around Uganda

Nearly 1 in every 2 girls in Uganda is married before the age of 18.

Drivers

In Uganda, child marriage is often a result of poverty. Many parents marry their daughters in the hope of securing their financial security. Bride price can also a motivation for parents: a younger bride means a higher bride price for the family.

Limited access to education for girls and traditional and social norms which dictate that girls are married at a young age in order to fulfil their role as a wife and mother, play a role too.

In addition, displaced population living in refugee camps often feel unable to protect their daughters from rape. Marrying them off to a warlord or other authority figure is seen as a form of protection.

Legal age of marriage

The minimum age of marriage in Uganda is 18 for both girls and boys, but a girl can marry at 16 with parental consent.

Initiatives to end child marriage

On 16 June 2015, the Government of Uganda launched the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage and its first ever National Strategy on Ending Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy (2014/2015 – 2019/2020), which was developed in partnership with civil society organisations, including Girls Not Brides members in Uganda, and UN agencies.

Led by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the strategy contains a multi-sectoral monitoring and evaluation framework, as well as an indicative budget for the implementation of the strategy.

UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage

Uganda is a focus country of the UNICEF-UNFPA Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a multi-donor, multi-stakeholder programme working across 12 countries over four years.

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