Joining forces towards a gender-equal world

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual, emphasizing the power of positive collective efforts in creating a gender-equal world. For Solidaridad, it is evident that women as well as men are an equally essential part of the solution in achieving gender equality, and we actively integrate this in our programmes as well as in our internal organization. In creating togetherness between men and women through shared interests and values, we stand that much stronger, as some of our ongoing programmes around the world illustrate.

Solidaridad colleagues stand in support of #EachforEqual

Solidaridad’s Gender ABC

To implement successful gender inclusivity projects, Solidaridad makes use of the Gender ABC implementation strategy. The Gender ABC consists of three building blocks:

  • A stands for Analysing and addressing barriers to participation
  • B stands for Balancing power relations
  • C stands for Creating togetherness based on shared interests and values

In light of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, and because we strongly believe in the importance of empowering both women and men to achieve greater inclusivity, we have gathered a few examples of relevant, successful Solidaridad interventions from around the world. The project examples illustrate the implementation of the Gender C, which includes addressing perceptions and social norms about gender. At the same time, it should also foster dialogue between men and women, which contributes to more inclusivity and togetherness.

Masculinity training in Latin America

In our various projects in Latin America, masculinity training is part of the gender inclusivity approach. One example is the PASOS project in Honduras, geared at fostering sustainable landscapes and increased biodiversity. An important element of PASOS is creating gender awareness, increasing women’s participation and improving their position in the cocoa sector in Honduras.

This means that gender interventions in PASOS are not only focused on women’s empowerment, but also on the participation of men. One of the interventions is therefore conducting masculinity training sessions.

Felipe Martínez, cocoa and chocolate producer, with Suzan Yemidi (right), international cocoa programme manager at Solidaridad

Cocoa and chocolate producer Felipe Martínez has taken part in such training sessions and can testify to the importance of their positive impact. He tells that he used to think, not unlike many men in Honduras, that the matter of gender equality only concerns women. The training on gender inclusivity has allowed him to gather more insight into this issue and understand that men play as big a role in fostering gender equality as do women, and that women empowerment has everything to do with both men and women. This has also included gaining a deeper understanding that empowering women is highly beneficial for the well-being of families and communities.

Felipe is now a role model in his efforts for gender inclusivity, and actively works with women in his cocoa and chocolate business, which has now been a family business for over 25 years.

Stimulating engagement in Gender Model Family training

Solidaridad also actively stimulates the engagement of men in Gender Model Family (GMF) training sessions in our LEGEND programme in Sierra Leone. The aim of this project is protection of land rights, livelihoods and food security of vulnerable people while promoting sustainable businesses. Promoting inclusivity and women empowerment is an important aspect of the project. Although women play an important role in the agricultural sector in Sierra Leone, they are traditionally not involved when it comes to decisions concerning land rights and ownership.

119 people have participated in GMF sessions, one of the four modules is the Village Saving Loan Association (VSLA) training. One of the participants, Sedia Massaquoi, explains:

“During the GMF training we were told how to make peace in a household. Men were shown how much work the women do, and this changed their opinion of us. We got educated about dividing labour more fairly, and on how to solve our issues more constructively. Now men take on some of the household tasks, and are treating women with more respect.”

Sedia Massaquoi, one of the participants of the Gender Model Family (GMF) training in our LEGEND project in Sierra Leone

This positive change in the household workload has meant that women have more time to spend on other activities, such as starting small-scale businesses with the help from the VSLA training. Seeing as women regularly invest their income in nutrition, health, and education, this has a positive impact on the general well-being of their families and communities at large.

Raising awareness with EMAP in Ghana and Tanzania

In our Golden Line programme in Ghana and Tanzania with project partners Simavi and Healthy Entrepreneurs, we work on the economic empowerment of women in artisanal and small-scale (ASM) gold mines and mining communities. We make use of the Engaging Men in Accountable Practice (EMAP) methodology, which motivates men to change their behavioural patterns based on female experiences.

The EMAP has a curriculum for both women and men. The curriculum for women consists of eight training sessions regarding violence against women and girls, and discussing women’s hopes and priorities for change. The curriculum for men, on the other hand, consists of sixteen sessions and is informed by the discussions with women. It gives male participants the tools and knowledge to re-think established belief systems, and to help prevent violence against women and girls through behavioural change.

Participants of the Golden Line programme and some Solidaridad staff in Tanzania. Samuel (see his quote below) stands in the centre, wearing the Golden Line t-shirt and blue jeans

Samuel, one of the participants in the Golden Line training sessions, tells:

“I saw young men in my community starting to copy the violent behaviour towards women that is common among older men in our community. I believe it is important to teach respect for women at a young age and create a new generation. I therefore decided to start an additional discussion group of young men. As a group we plan to jointly raise awareness on violence against women in our community.”

Engaging the youth in gender-inclusive norms

In our SaFaL programme in Bangladesh, Solidaridad works towards fostering sustainable agriculture and food security. Women empowerment and supporting female entrepreneurs – for instance, with better access to finance and relevant training – is an important part of the programme.

Entrepreneurs in the SaFaL programme in Bangladesh

In addition to that, the SaFaL programme involves an element geared at engaging the youth in learning about cultural norms and values through adolescent clubs for both girls and boys. The adolescent club for girls is a space for the girls to talk to each other, play with each other, become more aware of their rights, and receive important information about health and gender issues, including family planning and reproductive health.

One of the girls from the adolescent club says:

“Now we can discuss issues related to health and hygiene amongst ourselves, and also help other girls in school and the neighbourhood on the same. […] We have been able to stop child marriage in the village, this makes us very proud.”

In the meantime, there are also adolescent clubs for boys in the SaFaL project, where they can talk to each other, play with each other, become more aware of the rights of girls and women, and become more sensitized to issues relating to the negative effects of gender stereotyping and related issues.

Adolescent club for girls in the SaFaL programme in Bangladesh, together with the Gender Task Force of Solidaridad

The way forward

As the above project examples illustrate, gender inclusivity is clearly a topic of interest for both women and men. In the journey towards reaching gender equality, the focus on only women not only has the danger of doing harm, but also leaves out important elements such as shared values, common understanding and the strengthening of togetherness. To contribute to truly thriving families and communities, all should be involved in the journey towards gender equality.

Read on to find out more about Solidaridad’s work in gender inclusivity.