Gender transformative approaches

What are the options for implementing gender transformative approaches to ending female genital mutilation?


Following the first two sessions of the international stakeholder dialogue, one of which focused on the definition of “gender transformative approaches” and the second on the challenges of implementing this approach, the third and final session focused on identifying solutions and promising practices. Unfortunately, few good practices of gender transformative approaches could be reported in the area of FGM elimination and most of the data collected were about gaps and challenges. As a result of the dialogue, participants developed a set of recommendations to promote the implementation of gender transformative approaches to ending FGM. These recommendations are addressed to donors, governments and civil society actors.

For donors and sponsors

The recommendations for donors focus on how they can support their grantees in developing more complex and increasingly gender-sensitive projects. This includes funding more complex and time-consuming approaches, supporting capacity building and skills development of grantees, and developing networks and collaborations/consortia that can jointly implement gender transformative approaches.

This will primarily involve:

  • Funding organizations willing to pilot new and innovative approaches, including gender transformative approaches, to end FGM. Ensuring that the duration and scale of funding provided is sufficient to achieve gender equality transformation goals – this may mean funding longer, more flexible and broader programs implemented by consortia of different types of organizations.
  • Fund advocacy and awareness-raising activities to promote the use of gender transformative approaches with governments, technical partners, other donors/donors, and civil society.
  • Fund monitoring efforts of gender transformative projects that have been implemented to ensure that their results are sustained.
  • Fund capacity building for civil society organizations, grassroots organizations, and community-based organizations in FGM-affected communities to promote awareness of gender inequalities, gender transformative approaches, and understanding of how to apply them in programming.
  • When issuing calls for proposals, ask applicants to clarify their understanding of the gender equity continuum, gender transformative approaches, multi-level programming, and the social-ecological model approach, how they see their program on this gender equity continuum, and how they plan to apply a gender sensitive/ responsive/ transformative approach.
  • Promote collaborations between different types of grantees (grassroots, CBOs, INGOs, service delivery, advocacy organizations, youth organizations, etc.) to develop complex and comprehensive programs addressing FGM, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence (GBV), and other gender equality issues, through a multi-level gender transformative approach.
  • Create networking and knowledge exchange opportunities for grantees working under the same funding line or on related topics (such as FGM, sexual and reproductive rights, GBV, etc.) within and across countries to promote peer-to-peer learning and integrate efforts.
  • Fund evidence collection, case studies, context analysis, and research to address the lack of evidence on gender transformative approaches to FGM.
  • Invest in the development of monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) methodologies that better measure the impact of gender transformative programs at all levels of the social-ecological model.
  • Fund projects that promote women’s economic independence, such as providing microcredit, investing in small business networks of women entrepreneurs, etc.

For governments and policy makers

The recommendations for governments and policy makers provide suggestions on how to adopt a gender transformative approach in their own policy making. This translates into: better including women and girls in decision-making and ensuring the eradication of harmful practices; and ensuring the eradication of harmful gender norms in policy.

This will primarily involve:

  • Adopting a gender transformation perspective in the development of gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and GBV policies, particularly in initiatives to end FGM, including through the revision of existing policies and legislation.
  • Fund strategies to eliminate FGM that address unequal gender power relations and underlying structures, as part of national, regional, and community development plans and budgets.
  • Ensure that the perspectives of women and girls in general, and survivors in particular, are taken on board in policymaking processes related to FGM and the elimination of gender inequalities.
  • Integrate gender transformation education as part of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in school curricula, ensuring that adequate attention is given to girls’ and boys’ rights to bodily autonomy, harmful practices such as FGM, and emotional and relationship education.
  • Include training on gender-transformative approaches in the professional training curricula of key professions such as health workers, teachers and social workers.
  • Ensure that existing laws addressing gender-based violence (GBV) and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation are disseminated and effectively implemented by regional and local authorities; sensitize religious and traditional community leaders about national laws and encourage them to promote them in their communities.
  • Provide training to civil servants such as community police and judicial personnel on topics such as GBV and body autonomy.
  • Support the identification of actors working on gender equality and the promotion of the abandonment of FGM in their region.

For civil society actors

The recommendations for civil society encourage knowledge exchange between organizations and the development of new methods to demonstrate the impacts of gender transformative approaches and communicate them to donors. In addition, organizations should ensure that their organizational culture is geared toward gender equality. It is also advisable to work more closely with governments to promote policy change.

This will primarily involve:

  • Work in a consortium with other types of organizations (grassroots, community-based organizations, international NGOs, service delivery organizations, advocacy organizations, youth-serving organizations, etc.) to develop complex and comprehensive programs addressing FGM through a multi-level gender transformative approach.
  • Promote peer-to-peer and organizational learning between large organizations and grassroots organizations (including outside of formal collaborations and consortia) to increase their capacity and understanding of gender transformative approaches and especially ways to apply them.
  • Assess whether existing organizational strategy design and program monitoring, evaluation, and learning frameworks apply a gender transformative approach and adjust them as necessary to address identified gaps.
  • Ensure that all staff are trained in gender-transformative approaches and aware of their importance to the long-term success of efforts, and assess staff performance in promoting such approaches.
  • Develop monitoring and evaluation frameworks that measure change in social norms at different stages of programming as a process-demonstrating the smaller, incremental attitudinal changes that are intermediate steps toward the final goals. Partner with research or academic institutions to develop new approaches to monitoring and evaluation.
  • Adopt a horizontal, participatory decision-making process within organizations to ensure staff buy-in and commitment to project implementation.
  • During the programming phase, consider the following:
  • Include the intergenerational aspect by involving all generations, to ensure that programs target those who have the power to transmit and change social norms and who are responsible for the socialization of children.
  • Promote women’s leadership and self-confidence by establishing intergenerational and age-specific discussion groups for women and girls on the topics of sexuality, gender norms, FGM, etc.
  • Ensure that staff/facilitators who implement programming are prepared and trained to discuss sensitive topics such as gender norms and sexuality, but also to manage potential interpersonal and community conflicts that arise from these discussions, and are able to guide communities in constructive dialogue.
  • Support the work of individual activists by encouraging networking and peer-to-peer learning between those with more experience and those with less-this can be done by organizing retreats or informal exchanges of experiences for activists who share their desire to challenge gender norms in their communities.
  • Monitor government commitments and implementation of transformative gender policies, such as GBV, sexual and reproductive rights, FGM, etc., and consider creating shadow reports outlining actual practices where these fall short.
  • Work closely with relevant ministries (education, health, etc.) to promote the inclusion of training on gender equality, harmful practices, GBV, etc. in the curricula of relevant professionals, such as health personnel, teachers, social workers, etc.
  • Where laws do not yet explicitly prohibit FGM and there is opposition to criminalizing the practice, consider advocating for broader legal approaches, such as the protection of bodily autonomy and integrity, to prevent the practice.

In sum, a wide range of solutions and promising practices have been listed, which is the starting point of this change desired by all. It is up to each actor to initiate this change by identifying the actions/practices that can already be implemented on the ground and to implement them.

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