Action research adopting a gender transformative approach

In the 2nd session of the international stakeholder dialogue, which focused on the challenges of implementing gender transformative approaches to ending FGM, Fara Djiba Kamano, Executive Director of the NGO AFASCO (Accompagnement des Forces d’Actions Sociocommunautaires)  in Guinea presented an ongoing action research (AR) as an example of a program seeking to adopt a gender transformative approach.  

The action research,  titled Women’s submission, FGM and sexual fulfillment of the couple – findings, analysis and perspectives for less GBV in Guinea”, is implemented by the NGO AFASCO, GAMS Belgium, Health Focus and GIZ in Mamou, Guinea. By applying an action research methodology, the program allows scientific knowledge to be confronted with the realities of the field. Moreover, action research is characterized by being conducted with people rather than on people. Such studies require the participation of the research subjects throughout the process. As the action research progresses, the needs and problems of the field are identified by observing concrete situations. In the case of this ongoing study, the methodology includes both qualitative (focus groups, interviews, observations, etc.) and quantitative (surveys, questionnaires, etc.) methods.  The partners are particularly interested in how the three themes of the research – women’s submission, FGM and couple’s sexual fulfillment – intertwine.  The aim of the study is to identify concrete solutions and to develop an action plan. It should be noted that AR is not static, but cyclical: all the comments and recommendations gathered throughout the project help improve the next cycles. 

The planning of this action research includes three main phases: the organization of single-sex focus groups, intergenerational exchange days, and restitution sessions with local and national authorities.  

During the first phase, which lasted three months, single-sex focus groups were held in the city of Mamou in Guinea. The four groups were composed of married men, unmarried young men, married women, and unmarried young women. A total of 32 people participated and met every two weeks for 3-hour sessions.  

At each session, a different topic was discussed:  

  • 1st session: What is being a man, what is being a woman 
  • 2nd session: How we are socialized, what role is expected of us 
  • 3rd session: Excision and sexuality, pleasure 
  • 4th session : Sexual and reproductive rights 
  • 5th session: Gender-based violence 
  • 6th session: Managing emotions 

The participants showed great attendance, punctuality and active engagement throughout the sessions. The trainers particularly noticed the interest of the participants in the topics discussed.  

In the second phase of the project, which has not yet begun, a two-day intergenerational exchange will be organized with the four groups so that they can discuss the topics together. The participants will then present the results of the discussions and their recommendations to the religious and community leaders. Finally, at the end of the process, a workshop to report on preliminary AR results will be organized with the NGOs that worked on the project and the local and national authorities. 

Preliminary findings  of the study

Following the first cycle of the project, some initial results were shared with participants in the November 2021 GTA stakeholder dialogue:

  • Change of attitudes of some participants influenced by the discussions in the sessions: testimony during the following sessions of some participants who explained that they had changed certain elements of their behavior and their vision of the roles; 
  • Great interest and involvement of the participants in the discussions as well as the emergence of new topics proposed by the participants such as family planning; 
  • Possibility of transforming participants into models of change in gender and social norms: “champions of change“. They become champions of change through their involvement, their testimonies, their appropriation of the themes and the changes brought in their own families. 
  • The theme of sexuality: the participants asked to take it up again and the young men and women wanted to discuss it together (intergenerational and mixed dialogue). It is a theme that interested a lot. There is a testimony of a married man who confessed that he did not know what foreplay was and he decided to discuss it with his wife. Many of the participants said that in their community, pleasure was reserved for men. The discussions also helped to address the importance of women’s pleasure. 

The first cycle of research allowed the research team to identify gaps in the methodology. Several suggestions were made in order to improve potential upcoming cycles of the project , including: providing more facilitators for the activities, translation into local languages, expanding the area of intervention to have a better representation of the community, organizing gender-mixed and intergenerational discussions at an earlier stage as participants expressed the need to discuss topics such as sexuality with other members of the community. Program implementers further noted that, despite the small number of participants, different groups in society were represented, including people who were reluctant to change, community leaders and imams.  The focus groups allowed for a real confrontation of ideas on the roles, needs and feelings of different community members.

“La Communauté de pratique sur les mutilations génitales féminines” fait partie du projet “Bâtir des ponts entre l’Afrique et l’Europe pour lutter contre les MGF”, soutenu par le “Programme conjoint UNFPA-UNICEF sur l’élimination des MGF”.
Le projet est coordonné par AIDOS en partenariat avec GAMS Belgique

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