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.

Effectiveness of “Girls Parliament” in ending child marriage

What is the effectiveness of “Girls Parliament” in ending child marriage?

By engaging girls with community and religious leaders including boys and girls, men and women, policy makers and influencers the power of Girls Parliament as a community awareness intervention in ending child marriage will be realised. SCOEN will identify impact pathways included creating opportunities for reflection and helping people shift both attitudes and practices, face-to-face communication with target groups and generating the ability to address issues of concern directly and to re-frame local thinking.

SCOEN will use communications-focused interventions

  • Community and religious elders be prioritised for child marriage and gender equality messages as they are often the ultimate gatekeepers of social norms.
  • Boys and men be targeted aimed at encouraging new masculinities that support their sisters and daughters to reach adulthood before they become wives.
  • Face-to-face discussion encourages local ownership and combined with top-down or media approaches for best effect.
  • Peer-to-peer education, girls’ clubs bring transformatory change to girls, helping them build confidence and voice while learning about their rights, serving as critical venues for reporting planned marriages.

Whats Girls’ Parliament and how will it be run?

A Girl’s Parliament consists of a sequence of sessions, each leading to the intended outcome. Child Marriage may not be discussed in the initial sessions to avoid community backlash. Related motivational activities will be used to introduce the topic. The initial sessions will be informed by the local context of the community.

The main objective of Girls’ parliament is to create a platform that promotes critical reflection that allows for questioning of beliefs, myths and practices in order to realize a change in social norms to accelerate the abandonment of Child Marriage.

This will: –

  • create a deeper understanding of communities, their situation, current practices, interests, existing opportunities and challenges and helps devise mitigating strategies for sustainable behavior change
  • enhance accountability and stimulates action and a sense of ownership of agreed interventions by the community
  • enable identification of key persons in the community in order to build networks and partnerships to ensure sustainability
  • enhance the capacity of the facilitators to develop effective and adaptable skills in inclusive decision-making for attitude and behavior change

The following steps are essential in organizing and conducting the girl’s parliament:

Training of community facilitators; stakeholders’ mapping and engagement; participant identification; develop leading questions; venue selection; and timing of the dialogue; Participant mobilization – a maximum of 45 participants is advisable for one facilitator.

It’s also important to understand how to conduct such effective sessions to bring about the desired change. Like to: – introduce the purpose of the dialogue; language of the dialogue, rules of engagement; community resolve and action plan; evaluating the dialogue and concluding the dialogue

FACILITATION:

Facilitation plays a significant role as it ensures that the objectives are met. It is thus imperative to have a qualified individual who will understand the qualities, roles and responsibilities of facilitation to effectively moderate theconversation. This person will be sourced to facilitate, conversant with Child Marriage issues and may be able to handle different scenarios. she may be confronted with different scenarios during the dialogue process that may hinder successful engagement and conclusion of the process

 

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.

Atelamoti Community Water Spring

Stories and Community Profile

Executive Summary

Atelamoti community members rely on Onganyakonye Spring, which has always provided water for people here. However, the water source is both a blessing and a curse to its dependents: Locals, especially children under age 5, constantly suffer from stomach-aches and diarrhoea.

Women and children bring their containers and dunk them until they are full. Some find bending over too strenuous, and instead step into the spring to draw its water. This activity is one of many that contaminates drinking water; waste is washed into the spring when it rains, and animals are free to come and go as they please.

Welcome to the Community

Onganyakonye Spring is located in Atelamoti Village where people are peasant farmers who grow maize, beans and cassava as their food crops. grain is also planted in small patches to attract income, however little, from grain market.

When people wake up each morning, their first activity is to walk to Onganyakonye Spring to fetch water for the day’s needs. Some residents sell firewood – harvested from their own family woodlot; some bake bricks or hire themselves for casual labour to make ends meet. The region is adorned with beautiful, picturesque and peculiar outcrops of large igneous rocks that not only provide resting places for the villagers, but also act as ecological niches for reptiles like geckos.

 Water Situation

Onganyakonye Spring is the exclusive source of water for 100 community households as well as the 300 students of Atelamoti Primary School.  It has well-preserved catchment areas that have kept it from drying up, despite seasons of drought that sometimes reduce other springs to dry ground. This makes it a life-giving spring for over 1,000 people. (Editor’s Note: While this many people may have access on any given day, realistically a single water source can only support a population of 350-500 people.  This community would be a good candidate for a second project in the future so adequate water is available.)

“During rainy season water is a lot, but the population is too high for the spring to accommodate all households and the school in its current state. Consequently, the trend has been that people line up to almost midnight and others fight due to overcrowding,” said Madam Jessicah, at 60. She was caught quarrelling with Ruth to give her a chance to fetch water as well, for she had waited in the line since 6 AM, but in vain.

People have suffered typhoid as a result of drinking this unprotected spring’s water – more so children whose immune systems are weak.  Many people in this village have had diarrhoea that can be attributed to unsafe water from the spring. The older folks are fairly resistant, but they too have to buy Water Guard and use it when they notice that the spring’s water is outright polluted, especially during the dry season when the spring is under more pressure from so many users.

Sanitation Situation

Under half of the homes in Atelamoti Village have their own pit latrines which are fashioned from logs and have no doors. The wooden floors become worn out, making them unsafe to use. These pit latrines are very difficult to keep clean, attracting flies which spread diseases.

Rubbish is either disposed of in the garden or behind the homes where chickens scramble for it.  Only 25 – 50% of the homesteads have clothesline and dish racks.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

At least 15 community members and health workers will attend hygiene and sanitation training for two days where a water user committee will be established to oversee all operations around this spring.  The facilitator plans to use PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation), CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation), ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development), group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.

Plans: Sanitation Platforms

On the second day of training, participants will select five families – who suffer most from a shortage of sanitation facilities – to benefit from new latrines.
Training will also inform the community and selected families as to what they need to contribute to make this project a success. They must mobilize locally available materials, such as bricks, clean sand, hardcore, and ballast. The five families must prepare by sinking a pit for the sanitation platforms to be placed over. All community members must work together to make sure that accommodations and food are provided for the work teams.

Plans: Spring Protection

This water is not safe for human consumption, yet these people cannot afford to protect the spring by themselves. They are willing and ready to work with the organization to help them protect their water point. Users of this spring are ready to garner all materials required from their side for the protection of this source.

Protecting a spring often results in a stronger flow of water from it.  So, protecting Onganyakonye Spring will alleviate overcrowding and long lines and ensure that the water is safe, adequate and secure.  Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water.  So, the community of Atelamoti will be healthier, happier and able to spend more of their time and energy in school, at work and taking care of their families.

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