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Gender Action Learning inspires Oxfam’s partners to rethink about “Gender”

 

Written by Savann Oeurm

“Empowering women and gaining men’s support on women empowerment will encourage women to stand up for themselves, and break down cultural norms that prevent them from moving up into leadership roles.”

Despite all the political changes and economic growth in Cambodia over the past 30 years, not a great deal has changed for many poor, rural women and girls.

“Strengthening women’s capacity and economic status are crucial to helping them tackle poverty and defend their rights to live with dignity in the society”, says Sophoan Phean, Oxfam’s project manager for the People Protecting their Ecosystem in the Lower Mekong (PEM) program in East Asia region.

“Empowering women and gaining men’s support on women empowerment will encourage women to stand up for themselves, and break down cultural norms that prevent them from moving up into leadership roles”, Sophoan says.

“Previously women and girls were not valued in indigenous society,” says Dam Chanty, director of the Highlander Association (HA), “I want women to be leaders.”

In partnership with Gender@Work, Oxfam brought together 3 local NGO partners of Oxfam in Cambodia and Oxfam in Vietnam, to participate in a series of workshops called “Gender Action Learning” (GAL). GAL is designed to encourage Oxfam and its partners to take actions that promote greater gender justice in their work and in their organizations. The workshop also seeks to build their confidence, knowledge, and skills to bring about changes in their own personal lives.

A group of women cleans a boat for their patrolling team to protect the community forest and fishery in Rattanakiri province, Photo by Savann Oeurm/Oxfam

A group of women cleans a boat for their patrolling team to protect the community forest and fishery in Rattanakiri province, Photo by Savann Oeurm/Oxfam

Stepping into the right direction

The GAL workshop format evolved through discussions between Gender@Work advisors, Oxfam’s PEM program team, and Oxfam’s partners. From there, 3 subsequent workshops where held. Gender@Work staff also went into field visits to partner organizations between workshops to support their change projects intended to strengthen the gender aspects of their programs.

The key question that Oxfam always asks is:

What are the challenges facing women and preventing them from taking the leadership positions and actively participating in natural resource management?

“The first GAL workshop allowed partners to design interventions that would address those challenges. We met again in the second workshop, where we followed up on the implementation of the interventions designed during the first workshop. Each team also explored whether or not some of the assumptions they were making were correct, as well as, what they would like to change to make sure that they would be successful in addressing their challenges” said Sophoan.

Between each of the workshops, Gender @Work advisors provided continuous support to Oxfam and its partnersin making sure that the initiative is going well.

The Partners met again in May 2016 for the third workshop, where they shared their learning, reviewed the results, and explored how their teams could apply their learning from the Gender Action Learning initiative.

Gender Assessment in the project area of Oxfam’s partner-Save Cambodia’s Wildlife in Rattanakiri, Photo by Savann Oeurm/Oxfam

Gender Assessment in the project area of Oxfam’s partner-Save Cambodia’s Wildlife in Rattanakiri, Photo by Savann Oeurm/Oxfam

Key Learnings from GAL

GAL was implemented simultaneously with other Oxfam organizational priorities, yet still, partners achieved impressive results.

The GAL process helped Sophoan widen her perspective about how gender issues can be addressed. “So now, how we see women’s empowerment informs the way we, as Oxfam, can design our programs, especially on empowering women in natural resource management,” she said.

Dam Chanthy, Director of Highlander Association, said GAL taught her simple tools that are not complicated and technical. The most important point, which she gained from the workshop, is the importance of gender equity in her organization and its community.

“GAL is very important for indigenous people and their communities. Now, HA tries to help indigenous communities in including women in management committees or leadership roles. We’ve embedded and established gender justice policy and mainstreamed gender in all of our activities at HA, such as participation of women in meetings about protecting natural resources.”

Nguyen Duc ToLuu, Program Manager of PanNature, who has participated in the GAL workshops since September 2014, said that the workshop is unique.

“It is not like other trainings. Every participant can reflect about themselves in so many different ways. I learned from the program, not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level.”

“It’s amazing to understand the framework of gender analysis. We try to apply our learning from GAL into our projects. In the past, we didn’t think about gender differences, but now we do. In all of PanNature’s projects, we seriously consider gender policy, and focus on women empowerment in forest protection and development.”

“The best thing that I have learned are the methodologies for gender analysis. Before, we didn’t know how to analyze,” said Romas Saron- program officer of HA.

“We can use GAL’s approach as a tool to analyze the framework of our organization and our communities to determine whether there is a gender focus or not.”

Say Ngim from Save Cambodia’s wildlife said, “In Cambodia, people don’t pay attention to women. Through this workshop, I learned to pay attention to women and to help create space and equity between men and women.”

“My view about women has changed a lot after GAL. When we recruited for a Finance Officer, women applicants were our first priority, even if they had lower qualifications compared to men applicants. On a personal level, over the weekends, I started to help my wife in doing some of the housework.”

“Indigenous people always value men more than women”, said Fong Champey, Women’s Rights Program Officer of HA. She applied her learning from GAL by sharing it with indigenous communities in her province. She helps build their understanding on gender issues and women participation in natural resource management.

“I always use the knowledge from GAL to motivate myself when I feel depressed. When I compare myself to men, I sometimes look down on myself because I feel like I don’t have the same capacity as men. But when I look back at what GAL has taught me, it encourages me that whatever men can do, I also can do.”

Chan Vicheth, Program Manager of Save Cambodia’s Wildlife (SCW) said the management team of his organization is very happy and receptive to implement Gender Action Learning into the daily management policy and strategies of SCW.

“We recently increased female staff members in the management level, and are also applying our gender policy in the organization. This has been a positive and significant change, starting from our organization.”

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