Gender at Work, in collaboration with Oxfam Canada’s Partner in Cross Sectoral Engagement capacity development program, have published these two complementary papers following the completion of the Gender and Learning (GAL) program in the Horn of Africa. A two-year, non-prescriptive, collaborative process, GALs objective was to aid gender-equitable capacity development in six organisational partners from Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Sudan.
The partner organisations that participated in GAL included both established and relatively new NGOs working on community development and mobilisation, and each relied heavily on volunteers who regarded it as their responsibility to work within their cultures to enact change. Following reflective one-to-one meetings with each organisation, called “hearing the story”, workshops and consultations with GAL facilitators helped them to develop ‘change programs’ which on a particular barrier to transforming exclusionary practices. Facilitators also provided the necessary tools, resources, mentoring and training, using a process called ‘action learning’, or learning by doing.
The first paper, ‘Gender, change, and gender relations’ presents the organisational context of each of the participants, and examines the effect that GAL had in terms of: the individual conceptual and consciousness shifts that occurred; organisational changes and developments; and cultural and community shifts. The second paper, ‘Working on gender issues in our own way’, reflects on the process itself and how it helped these organisations to cultivate change processes in their own way and according to their own culture. This proved to be a striking aspect of the NGOs strategies; a simultaneous respect for, and challenging of, local culture that allowed for a greater depth of community dialogue.
Outcome highlights with regard to changes that the GAL program produced are summarised at three scales:
· Individual – new knowledge, skills, capacities, and counter-cultural behaviours were attained, such as men treating their wives differently, and challenging long-standing community norms regarding gender roles.
· Community – networks of change agents were built, cultural and religious leaders were engaged, and communication of research results on gender violence was disseminated.
· Organisational – women were given a voice within organisations, volunteer bases were strengthened, organisational understanding of gender equality was enhanced, and programs were developed to further women’s rights in communities.