Gender transformative approaches

Results of the International Stakeholder Dialogue on FGM


This report is based on the discussions held within the framework of the virtual International Stakeholder Dialogue (ISD) organised by AIDOS, GAMS Belgium and the End FGM European Network in October-November 2021. The discussions gathered 53 stakeholders from the public sector, civil society organisations and the UN system, representing 33 organizations from 21 countries across Africa, Europe and North America working towards the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The main objective of the ISD is to support the development of practical and promising gender transformative approaches to ending FGM through mutual learning, identification of best practices and collectively set recommendations for key international stakeholders. The ISD further aims to build on and provide suggestions for the implementation of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) Action Coalitions 1 and 3.

The ISD discussions recognised that FGM is closely tied to unequal power relations between men and women and is a form of gender-based violence (GBV). As a manifestation of gender inequality, it needs to be addressed through approaches that aim not solely to eradicate the practice in and of itself, but to also transform the gendered and social norms and power relations which have produced and maintained it as a practice. The concept of the gender equality continuum, which describes the different approaches to gender equality that can be taken to assess the potential of programming and policy to address harmful gendered norms and power relations, is central to developing a gender transformative approach (GTA) to ending FGM. To achieve long-lasting change,
multi-sectoral interventions which cut across the socio-ecological model and intervene at different levels of social, political and legal structures are needed.

While applying gender transformative approaches is increasingly popular among international donors, the ISD discussions brought to light the considerations which need to be made when applying this approach to ending FGM. The lack of common understanding and skills on GTA among civil society working to end FGM requires investment in capacity building and peer-to-peer knowledge transfer. The significant scope and considerable time frame needed for the full application of a gender transformative programme are barriers for smaller organisations, which are often active only at the level of their local communities and dependent on short-term funding. Additional concerns exist about designing programmes which are only likely to bring results in the long-term (as gender transformative approaches are) to situations which may appear to require an immediate intervention – this underlines the importance of raising awareness of the continuum of violence faced by women and girls, of which FGM is only one manifestation. Gender transformative approaches additionally require a broad focus that goes beyond the traditional risk groups of FGM – i.e., women and girls, who often hold the least power in societies – and for equal attention to be paid to those who do hold the most power, particularly men but also senior women who need to take part in a gender transformative process as well.

Considering these limitations, few good practices of gender transformative approaches could be reported in the field of ending FGM and most of the evidence collected relates to gaps and challenges. To address these, ISD participants developed a series of recommendations, aligned with the objectives of the GEF Action Coalitions 1 and 3. The recommendations for funders and donors focus on how they can support their grantees in developing more complex and increasingly more gender transformative approaches, increase grantees’ capacities and skills and develop networks and collaborations which can jointly deliver gender transformative approaches. The recommendations for policy makers and governments provide suggestions for how to adopt a gender transformative approach in their own policy making, better include women and girls in decision making
and ensure the eradication of harmful gender norms in policies. The recommendations for civil society promote knowledge exchange between organisations, developing novel approaches to donor reporting to demonstrate impacts of gender transformative approaches, ensuring that their organisational culture is gender transformative and, where possible, working more closely with governments to promote gender transformative
policy change.

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