Stories of Change

This note is an outcome of our experience of working together as part of a research project on water-induced disasters in Nepal, supported by IDRC. The project, titled, ‘From Vulnerability to Resilience of Those Left Behind: Empowering Women, Children, and the Elderly in the Mid-Hills and the Tarai Regions of Nepal to Cope with Water-Induced Disasters’ was implemented by a consortium of three organisations2 and was aimed at generating “gender transformative” policy recommendations. In partnership with Gender At Work, the project team used an action-learning approach to explore the issue of gendered vulnerabilities.
This set of case studies explores Gender at Work’s approach to furthering gender equality objectives within four trade unions participating in the Gender at Work South Africa Gender Action Learning Program: the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU); Sikhula Sonke; Building, Construction and Allied Workers Union (BCAWU) and Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (HOSPERSA). The case studies provide key reflections on the Gender at Work Action Learning Process in the context of trade union struggles to advance worker rights.
Through the Letsema initiative, G@W associates and LRS facilitators in the Vaal, sought to answer the question of “how can we create a Vaal with 0% GBV?” Vaal is a marginalised peri-urban township outside Johannesburg with high levels of gender-based violence including rape, incest, domestic abuse and teen pregnancy. The Letsema process sought to work with individuals in local, grassroots leadership roles from across a range of community groups, formal and informal, and to weave connections among them through a process of dialogue and action. Some of these processes of dialogue and action included those whose behaviour perpetrates the culture of violence. The Letsema initiative brought changes at both the personal and collective levels. It has led to greater levels of respect and positive behaviour change between boys and girls, increased self-esteem among girls, and more outward expressions of belief in gender equality. It has facilitated reconciliations between perpetrators of violence and families of victims. Bringing teachers and adults in positions of authority into the process has been key, and has facilitated changes in cultural norms reproduced through churches, schools and traditional institutions. All of the action groups and interest groups noted that the creation of safe spaces for dialogue and relationship-building (e.g. around violence, sexuality and LGBTI identities and rights) was in itself a positive outcome.
This case study describes the Dalit Women’s Accountability Initiative, a two-year project (2010-12) implemented in Uttar Pradesh in collaboration with four grassroots NGOs with the aim to increase Dalit women’s access and participation in the right to work programme- National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). 8000 Dalit women were reached through awareness raising activities in 69 panchayats village councils). Among the significant outcomes, participation of Dalit women increased by 400% in the 8 districts in which this project worked, and women with a bank account in their name increased from 30 to 70 percent.
In partnership with key women’s organizations and networks, development organizations and agencies, and social movements, two feminist leadership capacity development initiatives were implemented in India and in South Africa with 34 participants from India, South Africa, Jordan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The 34 feminist leaders, change agents, and practitioners participated in year-long leadership development training and were mentored to carry out and apply Gender at Work’s gender-action learning methodologies in their home contexts and implement change projects. The change projects saw participants take on complex and difficult issues within their organizations. The majority of participants took on change projects to alter the cultural patterns and behaviour of their team members.