Gender transformative approaches

Intergenerational work to empower women


 Involving three different generations to favour women’s empowerment

Judi Aubel, a member of the CoP on FGM, presented the work of the NGO the Grandmother Project and their project “the Girls’ Holistic Development (GHD) Program”, implemented in southern Senegal, by the NGO in close collaboration with the District Education Office.

The objective of the program was “to increase girls’ success at school and to reduce the incidence of child marriage, teenage pregnancy and female genital mutilation”. 

“To achieve these objectives, the GHD program promotes positive cultural roles and values while discouraging harmful ones; involves three generations of community members (adolescents, adults and elders) of both sexes; promotes intergenerational dialogue; strengthens the traditional role of senior women, or grandmothers, as confidants and advisors of young girls; and uses dialogical communication methods to catalyze reflection in communities for consensus-building on all aspects of GHD.”

While earlier studies had “revealed that the GHD program has contributed to improving the status of females of all ages as well as relations between the sexes in both family and community contexts” they had not sufficiently “investigated changes in gender relations in an in-depth way”. Therefore, a study was carried out by anthropologist, Dr. Francesca Lulli,  in September 2019. 

The objectives of the study were to:

• Determine if there has been any change in the attitudes of men towards women who openly express their opinions and in women’s confidence to speak up in family and community contexts

• Identify changes in intergenerational relations (between elders, adults and adolescents) and between men and women.

The study was based on a series of interviews with groups of grandmothers, mothers of adolescents, adolescent girls, adolescent boys, local officials and men in 13 communities in Kandia and Nemataba communes. Interviews were conducted in the local language, Pular, with a total of 253 people. 

In her analysis the auther concluded that there had been “positive changes in gender relations and in the status of women of all 3 generations”, including in terms of: 

    “According to those interviewed, prior to the introduction of the GHD program, women did not speak publicly and did not speak very much in family settings when in the presence of men and elders. Now, according to all interviewees, women of all generations have greater confidence to express their opinions in family settings and in public in front of men and elders.”

    Both grandmothers, mothers and girls said men listened to them more after the programme. “The men thought that they were the only ones entitled to speak and be respected in the family. They made no effort to understand women’s opinions and there were often conflicts between them. Now, according to all interviewees, those relationships have improved: husbands and wives communicate more and listen more to each other. Also, now, women of childbearing age are listened to in community meetings. (…) Previously, girls could not give their opinions and were not listened to in family setting. Their fathers now listen to them, considering their needs and opinions. Boys also listen more and have more respect for girls’ opinions.”

    “Before, it was only the head of the family who made the big family decisions, and he did so on his own. Now, men consult and collaborate much more with women and grandmothers on all family matters. The consultation process regarding the marriage of girls has also changed: beforehand, the father decided on his own, now he involves the other members of the family, especially the grandmothers and mothers, and he listens to young girls’ opinions.” 

    “Previously, only the men consulted one another to make decisions related to community issues. Now both sexes and three generations are involved in the community consultation process. And grandmothers often have a significant role in conflict resolution.”

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