This post was written by Pamela Onyo, Research Officer in Kenya.
Gender transformative approaches are programs and interventions that create opportunities for individuals to actively challenge gender norms, promote positions of social and political influence for women in communities, and address power inequities between persons of different genders. It creates an enabling environment for gender transformation by going beyond just including women as participants in a project. The approaches are part of a continuum of gender integration into all aspects of program and policy conceptualisation, development, implementation and evaluation.
In the context of health and social and behaviour change communication (SBCC), the approaches address multi-level power hierarchies in communities that impede an individual’s ability to make decisions about his or her health. For women, this can include (but is not limited to) health decisions such as access to health services and birth spacing. These approaches strive to shift gendered community perspectives and social relationships towards perspectives of equality that allow both women and men to achieve their full potential within a society. Accordingly, the approaches go beyond improving health access for women alone, but include benefits for men that also affect women’s health and empowerment.
Anglican Overseas Aid (AOA) is funded by the Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme (AACES) to implement The Road Less Travelled (TRLT), a maternal and child health project in Ethiopia and Kenya. AOA’s implementation partners are the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) in Ethiopia, and the Mother’s Union of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Mt Kenya West Diocese (MUACK).
The primary outcome of the project is ‘improved maternal and child health outcomes’, with a long-term objective of ‘increased empowerment of women, and other marginalised groups, to be involved in their decisions that affect their health and wellbeing’. The project is implemented in highly patriarchal societies with entrenched social practices, and where moves towards gender equality are marked by several challenges. Since its inception, TRLT has made significant and substantive gender transformative approaches with regards to gender equality in their project areas. AOA has strived to integrate gender transformative approaches in all aspects of TRLT programming including program design, implementation and evaluation.
In Ethiopia, APDA developed and adopted a gender policy, and building on the APDA years of experience, this policy provided guidance on pursuing more effective, evidence-based investments in gender equality and women empowerment, and incorporating these efforts into TRLT work. Under the policy, APDA aims to remain focused on protecting women and men from violence and abuse, as well as increasing the participation of women at all levels of decision making. Finally, they must consciously ensure that the composition of their own organisation reflects their principles, creating a work environment that empowers and rewards women and men fully and equitably. In connection, in May 2015 a gender consultant was contracted by AOA to guide the APDA gender core group team in identifying and discussing the strategies for the implementation of the gender policy.
In Kenya, a one-week gender training workshop was held in 2012 on gender responsive planning and programming, organised by the Collaborative Centre for Gender and Development (CCGD) for Anglican Overseas Aid grantees. Also in October 2014, a gender equality and social inclusion consultant was contracted by AOA with the sole objective of planning and leading a process for organisational coherence, understanding, and commitment to gender and disability inclusion and equity for their partner organisations. Finally in May 2015, the gender consultant conducted training workshop with the MUACK staff on research methodologies exploring the community’s perceptions and attitudes on the impact of the TRLT project on gender relations since its inception. A pilot of the process has been completed, and staff in Kenya are now adequately equipped to carry out the research before the end of the project in 2016.