The introduction of a gender approach in international solidarity projects makes it possible to act more effectively to establish gender equality. Mathieu Cros, Head of Research, Evaluation and Capitalization at Aide et Action, tells us about the gender study that has just been launched within the NGO.
Can you tell us what is the objective of this study?
At Aide et Action, we have been working on access to education for women and girls for a very long time, with many projects on this topic. But beyond access to education and literacy for girls and women, the issue of gender is very complex.
A quick reminder on gender: gender refers to the social roles constructed by society and attributed to women and men, and to the social relationships between women and men. These roles and relationships depend on social and cultural factors. They are conveyed (by institutions, the family, education, etc.) and can be modified and evolve under various influences (education, laws, technologies, etc.). These social constructions are a source of inequality between women and men. This is mostly to the detriment of women, and has a particular impact on education, as women have a lower overall level of education and a higher illiteracy rate.
One of the priority cross-cutting themes as defined in our strategic orientations for the period 2020-2030 is the empowerment of women and girls. The question of our study is very simple: how do we make this priority a reality in our projects? Taking the gender issue into account today also means questioning our practices and the social relations based on gender in our organisation more broadly. We can have a project that promotes girls’ access to education, but that does not mean that we will be gender-sensitive in the way we implement the project. For example, in order to promote girls’ access to education, maybe we will rely on the school’s parents’ association, which is only run by men. We will thus be cut off from the participation of mothers on the subject of school.
The objective of our study is to analyze our current practices and draw lessons to improve gender integration: this could lead to the creation of specific tools, training actions for Aide et Action teams, etc.
How will the study be carried out?
We are launching the study in African countries where the under-schooling of girls is more significant than in other continents where we work. Aide et Action is present in Africa through many projects. For the study, we decided to select 4 projects that we find representative of our action in 4 countries (Guinea, Benin, Madagascar and Burkina Faso). We tried to have a diversity of contexts (security…) and types of projects (primary schools, adult education…).
The study is divided into three phases. It starts with an observation of our current practices. This is followed by a phase of prospective reflection aimed at determining the main priorities both for our projects and in our internal practices. The last stage consists of implementing an action plan. This has a 2-3 year horizon and concerns the major internal projects to take gender into account (organisational practices, human resources, project management, etc.).
In order to support and monitor this action plan, it is planned to set up a gender working group within Aide et Action in the second half of 2022, with projects for the rest of the organization. This will enable us to monitor and evaluate our actions.
Can you tell us more about the workshop that was held in Conakry?
The first project we visited was Compétences pour demain in Guinea. During a workshop in Conakry, we brought together the main actors of the project: beneficiaries, town hall, Aide et Action team, partner associations… We tried to observe what is happening in terms of gender in this project and territory. What are the experiences of young women and men in the commune in terms of gender? What are the good practices in the field of international solidarity that could be implemented to better take gender into account in the project?
To analyse gender issues, we use different participatory tools. For example, the transform’action tree help us to question social relationships based on gender. The roots represent the root causes (stereotypes, social norms, etc.). The fruits represent the impacts of the gender system. The branches represent the school, the family, the community… Finally, the trunk of the tree corresponds to the intermediate mechanisms (of reproduction) on which we can act. For example, teachers at school can convey gender norms. We can try to change these practices. We can also see that women have little access to credit, which makes them less autonomous to start a professional activity. Here again, we have levers to act. This tree metaphor works very well with people who have little training or are used to project management. Through dialogue, this tool can also make men aware of the burden that weighs on women.