Participatory Action Learning on Gender Mainstreaming in Kenya – Reflections from the Field

02/07/2014

By Patricia Njoroge

A little while ago, Robert Chambers blogged about a conference ‘Engaging with Crisis-affected People in Humanitarian Action’ that he attended. Robert reflected on the change from top-down measurement towards accountability to the people he has witnesses over. Patricia Njoroge, who met Robert at the conference got in touch afterwards to share about a Participatory Action Learning project which illustrates the difference a participatory approach can make to people affected by crisis.

In 2013 the World Food Programme (WFP) and IDS launched a Participatory Action Learning (PAL) project ‘Innovations from the Field: Gender Mainstreaming from the Ground Up’. The project is funded by USAID and is being piloted in five countries: Kenya, Malawi, Lesotho, Senegal and Guatemala. The project’s objectives are to learn and sharewhat already works to mainstream gender equality in WFP field programmes. And to apply the lessons to strengthen gender-sensitive practice within WFP.

In Kenya WFP staff identified four themes they wanted to research through the PAL process. In December 2013 the ‘Deepening Understanding of Gender Relations’ and the ‘Communicating with the Field’ PAL Teams undertook a field study at the coastal region, using participatory tools to engage with communities involved in WFP Kenya’s Cash for Assets (CFA) programme. As well as talking about a range of benefits associated with the programme, several programmatic issues were raised by the affected communities. The best we could do was to record these on small hand held video recorders – this had a great impact! On returning from the field these issues were shared with management and steps were initiated to resolve them.participatory action learning 1

Providing feedback to the communities
In March 2014, two members of the PAL teams returned to the study communities and provided feedback on actions taken. Community members very much appreciated that action had been taken on the issues they had raised and also that the fact that the Team was able to visit them again and provide them with feedback. Often researchers collect community members’ views but not all are able to return and give feedback on actions taken with the information provided. The team showed those interviewed a video developed with their recording/contributions. The joy of having a team listening to them, and taking their concern to management, action taken and then going back to give feedback was immense. They said they appreciated that the organisation was now listening to them. They were happy to see themselves on film, with one person commenting about one of the women shown in the videos ‘she is now known across Kenya!’

As part of the analysis of findings, the PAL teams reflected on the use of different participatory tools during the study.

Time Line (12 hour clock)
This tool helped to highlight how men and women spend their time in a day. Where there was a member in the Focus Group able to write, the team guided the discussion and the members would discuss freely and write on the manila papers provided. This was an ice breaker, often causing laughter as participants reflected on how men and women spent their time differently, as well as creating space for discussion on how WFP can engage more men in project activities to reduce the burden on women.

At the end of the session, the list of what men do and women do was distinctive with men having a shorter list while the women’s list was far longer. The men all acknowledged that women do a lot more than men in a normal day and are the first to wake up and last to go to sleep.

When I used this method I found it is very engaging, there’s a relaxed atmosphere and participants don’t focus on themselves but rather discuss and agree on a common general activity to write down. Also, as a start I tell them I want to learn from them (they have the power to teach me about their lives) – all in all a very rewarding and satisfying experience.

Gender Participation in Productive Activities
With the help of this tool participants mapped five main daily activities and through proportional piling they showed how many men and how many women participate in each activity. This was a very participatory exercise as it involved drawing signs of men and women on a manila paper to represent proportions of engagement in various productive activities. It elicited some interesting, and sometimes conflicting, results. For example, in one community a group of women concluded that for four out of the listed five activities (CFA, farming on own land, paid labour, charcoal burning for sale) women represented eight out of ten people doing the activity, while for the remaining activity – drinking boko,(the local brew) – men rated ten out of ten. This resulted in a hilarious moment as one woman tried to point out that there are a few men who look for paid work. Yet in a discussion with young and older men, while they agreed that men’s participation in CFA activities was low at a mere 1 out 10 men, they said they participated more than women in casual labour and equally in charcoal burning. However, they did acknowledge that women’s contribution to income generation on top of their participation in CFA activities meant that in general women were doing more than men.Community members participating in workshop

Problem Census in Communication Tool
The tool helped to clarify how affected communities usually communicate between each other, how they receive information about the CFA project and how information is relayed through different sources and means. The tool also helps identify the preferred/ideal information-flow, including what channels to use in order to ensure communities receive information about projects effectively. This information is not always easy to capture through just verbal focus group discussions, neither is it easy to make people understand what information you are trying to obtain from them. Hence, using this tool to engage people helps both the participants to understand the information they should try to give as well as it assists the facilitator in her/his task to guide the conversation and map out the issues in an easier way.

Benefits of using participatory tools in the project
To sum up, these participatory tools helped in engaging with community members, creating an open friendly learning atmosphere with them educating the team and clearly bringing out issues for discussion. The participatory tools bring the participants closer to the subject and elicit rich discussions on the subject matter. It also holds the participants’ attention and the moderator has less fear of losing their audience.

In the course of the discussion, interrelated problems are discussed and causality factors identified. This provides a good opportunity for those involved to identify measures which can redress the weak points. By using the tools the beneficiaries felt they were in control of the process, telling their story in their own words.

Patricia Njoroge is a Gender and Protection Advocate with the World Food Programme (WFP) in Kenya

Read Robert Chambers’ blog post:


Tackling gender-based violence through citizen action in Cape Town’s townships

25/06/2014

Joanna Wheeler and Thea Shahrokh

Joanna WheelerGender-based violence is both routine and extreme across South Africa. In Cape Town, cases such as the rape and murder of nine-year-old Elihle Hlanjwa  continue to highlight the seriousness of this issue in the lives of women, men and children living in the city’s townships.

Sustained activist pressure on legislative and judicial bodies shows the challenges involved in responding to the issue, with opportunities for mitigation, redress and healing limited by an ineffectual justice system. The current inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha township has been driven by residents’ deep-rooted mistrust in law enforcement institutions, which is in part, a response to the failures of the police in addressing the issue. The violence that permeates township communities is also connected to economic insecurity and marginality of the spaces where people live. This has been acknowledged to a certainThea Shahrokh extent in municipal policy, such as the city-led Violence Prevention and Urban Upgrading scheme. However, the significance of the how violence is used to enforce discriminatory social norms such as those surrounding gender, age, race, religion and ethnicity have received less attention.

A recent pilot evaluation by the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, the University of Western Cape and the Institute of Development Studies was undertaken to learn from citizen activists taking action against gender-based violence in Khayelitsha township. The lived experience of these activists provides an example of how community responses to violence are contributing to a sense of democratic citizenship and the transformation of inequitable relations of power, attitudes and behaviours at the local level.

Citizen-led innovations in addressing urban violence demand greater attention in policy and programming. This requires seeing those living in contexts of violence as potential active citizens, who are able to claim their rights to security and demand greater accountability, as well as act directly to mitigate violence. In this evaluation an in-depth understanding of the life choices and life chances of community activists meant that we were able to understand more about what enables people to take action against violence, within their homes, communities and cities, and importantly what sustains this activism.

Activists found value in opportunities to reflect on their own lives and relationships before trying to influence others, seeing their own life journeys and personal transformations as important catalysts of change. Activist networks were essential for engaging people across all levels of society, helping to reshape and rethink societal norms around violence. Police responsiveness and accountability on issues of gender-based violence within intimate, community and institutional spaces were seen as crucial for rebuilding trusting relationships with citizens and in catalysing wider citizen action.

‘If there was a wife calling the police saying that there is a husband beating me up then they will take their own time to come because they know the husband. Sometimes they say ‘we don’t interfere with marriage, so you just need to go to the centres, or to those organisations that deal with marriages or abusive relationships’. But now we are working with them, because we introduced them and we are wanting them to become a part of the community committee.’ (Woman, Community Activist, Khayelitsha).

Activism against violence does not exist in a vacuum. Citizen action against violence that is informed by the local context, its constraints and its possibilities will be more sustainable and will have greater impact when combined with interventions that address wider systemic issues that drive poverty and inequality. Furthermore, it is important that policies addressing violence prevention and mitigation link between local, provincial and national levels. Learning needs to take place between each level to ensure that policies are responsive to, and enabling for the grass roots activists. The National Strategic Plan to End Gender Based Violence which is currently in development provides a platform for this kind of transformative policymaking. In order to realise this vision it will be critical that the policymaking process learns from community action, and enables citizens of South Africa to have a stake in the response.

Related research on citizen action and community-led innovations against gender-based violence in South Africa

The SLF Project ‘SafeShebeens’, which seeks to reduce the risks of violence to women in public drinking venues, was recently short-listed for the OpenIDEO Amplify Challenge.

Case study research with SLF and Sonke Gender Justice has been initiated to explore how collective action contributes to addressing the discriminatory social norms that perpetuate sexual and gender-based violence, and the role of men and boys in enabling transformative change.

Thea Shahrokh is a Research Officer at the Participation, Power and Social Change team at IDS. Joanna Wheeler is a Senior Research Associate at the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, previously she was a Research Fellow at IDS.

Read more blogs by Thea Shahrokh and Joanna Wheeler


What does it mean to be an explorer in development? Review of Robert Chambers’ recent book

03/06/2014

Pauline OosterhoffPauline profile

It is rather rare these days to find optimistic books on development. Robert Chambers’ latest book is a welcome change. Into the Unknown: Explorations in development practice does not shy away from sharply critiquing development paradigms that have proven ill-suited or counter-productive over the past five decades. This includes, Chambers ruefully acknowledges, some of those he has been part of himself, in his nearly half century in development work. But he remains enthusiastic about the capacity of development initiatives to succeed when they avoid being co-opted by powerful gatekeepers, and incorporate the knowledge and agency of poor people themselves.

‘Written in the spirit of exploration’
In the preface, Chambers modestly introduces himself as someone who learned -during an exercise managed by a student- that he mainly sees himself not so much as a researcher but as an explorer. With that he sets the tone for a book ’written in the spirit of exploration.’ The book contains some older already-published articles, and some new more recent work. The first part of the book critically explores Chambers’ professional experiences, starting as a colonial field administrator in Kenya; the second contains reflections on learning and teaching as individuals; and the final section explores the future of development in a digitalized world.

Chambers is hopeful about poor people’s abilities to improve their lives, and sceptical about privileged people’s willingness to recognise the distorting effects of power. A recurrent theme is the system of incentives for framing the realities of the poor in ways that suit the powers that be. The book details many examples of perverse incentives in the development sector. In Chapter 3, which focuses on irrigation in South Asia, Chambers explains how a water distribution project with context-specific

into-the-unknown-cover-imagrequirements only available in the Northwest of India was nonetheless sold as an India-wide solution, ignoring farmers’ knowledge and needs. Chambers harshly criticises the use of research to document the ’successes‘ of such projects. Badly-designed large projects continue to be authorised, he argues, because ’on a personal and social level there [is] a self-sustaining nexus of professional, social and personal relations, with a political economy linked to careers and income.’ Donors and recipients have a common interest in approving large loans; national officers stand to gain secondments to international organisations if they approve their projects; development workers hope to win well-paying consultancies; and expatriates especially tend to be part of social networks  with shared schools, swimming pools and other recreations. Designing good projects takes time to explore, listen, and learn through open-ended consultations with the poor, time that career-driven development professionals often do not have. The next section of the book focuses on acknowledging failures, reflexive learning, and how it can be promoted among institutions, groups and individuals.

A stimulating read
Chambers writes with humour, wit, and a real verve for telling stories, including unflattering ones about the author for the benefit of the reader’s education. (This is part a deliberate tactic; what sticks in people’s minds, Chambers writes, is ’telling stories, best against yourself‘.) There are lots of other plusses in the book – tips for individual learning and self-reflection, activities to plan, organize and conduct large participatory workshops and co-generating knowledge (ensure people have time to meet in well-set up coffee breaks, neutralizing dominators, finding out experiences and resources in the group). It clocks in at a very readable 130 pages, structured into 3 parts and 7 chapters with key lessons learned over a career in development that spans almost half a century on exploring experience and learning on development. This manageable size, clear language and the light tone make it a stimulating read.

But the book would have benefited from more detail on how to deal with gatekeepers to the poor who are less interested in learning than in keeping their privileged status. In development practice there are many hurdles, including visa procedures and travel restrictions that aim to deter explorers. What do we do with people in positions of power who are not eager to learn and discover? Apart from whistleblowing, what can we do to support good governance and effective development practices? This is one of the crucial battlegrounds in development work, and to be honest, I would have appreciated more stories about when to choose a battle.

On the other hand, the author is quite aware of his tendency to be optimistic. If you can accept that you will have to figure out yourself how to deal with gatekeepers and other authoritarian figures, the book provides a wealth of insights into development practices that are likely to deliver more sustainable results than narrow logframes.

Pauline Oosterhoff is Research Fellow for the Participation, Power and Social Change (PPSC) team at IDS.

 


The Quiet Revolution of Participatory Numbers…

07/05/2014

Jane StevensJane_Stevens200

The very mention of statistics used to leave my mouth slightly dry and dredge up memories of unfathomable, confused hours in long-ago college lecture halls willing it all to be over. Mention participatory statistics however and the whole picture changes! Last week I heard more about this innovative approach to generating knowledge using numbers, at an IDS seminar given by Jeremy Holland, editor of the recently published book Who Counts: the power of participatory statistics.

It turns out that this quiet marriage of the qualitative and quantitative has been gently blossoming since the early 1990s, but is only now being considered by the mainstreams of research, monitoring and evaluation. Participatory research has long been established as a credible process that challenges ‘top-down’ approaches to knowledge generation.  By repositioning ownership and control it respects local knowledge and facilitates local ownership whilst also enabling collective reflection and action. The generation of participatory statistics has increasingly been woven into these processes to create what Jeremy describes as a win-win outcome for development. He emphasised how empowering it is for local people to engage in the generation of quantitative data which has traditionally been highly extractive and externally controlled. At the same time this way of working produces reliable, cost-effective statistics rooted in reality for aid and development agencies and donors.

In addition it underpins and validates qualitative insights. We heard an example whereby an over-enthusiastic researcher in a community, looking for an exaggerated outcome to reinforce their own preferences, was kept grounded by the accompanying participatory statistical data.  In this way participatory statistics can ‘rein us in’, and complement, qualify and add to the validity and credibility of qualitative research.

So, what participatory tools can we use to generate statistics?
Many existing methodologies lend themselves to this process: participatory mapping and modelling; proportional piling; card writing, marking, sorting, ordering and positioning; matrix ranking and scoring; pairwise ranking; linkage diagramming and pocket voting. All these, and more, can be combined to provide valuable ways of counting, calculating, measuring, estimating and comparing. Together they can provide rich sets of data, based on local knowledge, community-owned and accessible by all.

And unsurprisingly, where processes are genuine, there are other benefits. The actual process can be as important as the outcomes. In the seminar Jeremy told us how police and youth had come together in Kingston, Jamaica, to analyse the frequency and cyclical nature of violence in their ghetto communities. The process of working together on participatory statistics engendered a greater respect of each other and the shared understanding of positions and issues. Power issues are challenged too, as the question of who counts, who analyses, who interprets and whose narrative matters is addressed.

Work with and on participatory statistics certainly needs to be nuanced: methodologies need to be contextual, and adapt and evolve to suit circumstances. Importantly this way of working offers a world where those in power are more in touch with grass roots realities via locally generated statistics. And, from the context in which I work, one particular benefit stood out in the seminar discussions – participatory statistics can be used to measure qualitative change. This allows aid agencies and donors to embed reflective learning practice into accountability programmes whilst coming up with accurate and credible statistical data. Donor’s goalposts have shifted in recent years and they are increasingly demanding reporting against quantifiable achievements. Could participatory statistics provide a way to satisfy them, whilst not compromising on the complexity of processes and ideals that lead to the transformative social change we all wish to see?

Watch the video-recording of the seminar:

Jane Stevens works as communications officer in the Participation, Power and Social Chang Team at IDS. This blog draws on notes taken at the Seminar and the introduction of the book Who Counts.

Read a previous blog piece by Jane Stevens:


Participate’s proposal for Post-2015 targets that respond to the realities of poor and marginalised people

16/04/2014

Danny BurnsDanny_Burns200

 

‘When the demolitions started in 2005, our life changed drastically… we were moved 50km away from Manila. There was no house…we were not able to spend the money on making the floor but on food because my husband could not work there… (now) The soil of our house erodes during rainy season’. My children had to stop school for a whole year…’ (Sara Mendoza, Philippines)

Participate research  has shown with remarkable consistency that not only has development failed to benefit the poorest and most marginalised people, it has frequently been the cause of, or has deepened their poverty. In other words, the poorest and those on the margins are often collateral damage for the ‘development’ of those who are easier to reach. The stories of numerous people in the Participate research was of shifting sands – never feeling secure, stable, recognised, safe – never knowing what tomorrow might bring.

Targets that fail to address these issues – instead focusing only on providing more and better services – will continue to fail those that have been left behind by development. The targets needed for people living in greatest poverty and those who are most marginalised are ones that provide solid ground and strong foundations from which dignity is enabled and people can build a future for themselves and their families. These include a secure place to live (an informal settlement which people know will be there tomorrow is a good start), an identity, the rights to citizenship, a basic livelihood (probably in the informal economy) and safety and security. They also include freedom from extreme discrimination and exclusion, an environment that does not destroy their capacity for building collective solutions and solidarity, and meaningful processes for them to articulate their needs, participate in and shape the construction of their own futures.

The refrain that reverberates through our research is that ‘there are clinics, and schools, but we don’t get access to them’. There is no point in talking about education if children still have to work in the fields or beg on the streets because their parents livelihood is not enough or because education is not available to them because of who they are (women, people with disabilities, lower castes, etc). There is no point in distributing resources to local villages if these are diverted by corrupt officials or dominant local families. There is no point in local clinics if people can’t afford medicines or are humiliated by doctors that treat them like animals as opposed to a person in need of treatment with a right to appropriate health care.

The realities of those living in extreme poverty and marginalisation are different to those on low income, and if their needs are to be met and their rights recognised then a different development paradigm is necessary: One which challenges fictional trickle down theories and starts with the poorest and most marginalised; one which recognises that much of what countries see as unquestionable – such as infrastructure development and economic growth – has to be questioned; and one which directly addresses the discriminatory norms and abuses of power that impact gravely on people’s capacity to overcome poverty and marginalisation, and participate in development.

The Participate proposal for post-2015 targets does not try to provide targets for every issue that was raised in the 18 participatory research studies.  Rather it seeks to distil three foundational target areas which must underpin the others, and without which the post-2015 targets framework will be meaningless for the poorest and most marginalised people. The targets relate to:

  • Livelihoods and pro-poor infrastructure development
  • Participation and citizen action
  • Tackling discriminatory institutional and social norms

As country representatives at the United Nations continue to formulate the final post-2015 framework, Participate reiterates the call to ‘leave no-one behind’. Tackling extreme poverty and marginalisation, alongside rising and intersecting inequalities, must be a priority. This will require a rights-based, people-centred approach which prioritises social justice and recognises the need for long-term policies and programmes.

Read more of Sara Mendoza’s story ‘Urban Growth in the Philippines’ on page 19 of the Work With Us report

Danny Burns is a Co-Director of the Participate initiative and Team Leader for the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS.

Read other posts from Danny Burns


Harnessing creativity to give marginalised people a voice: An example from Brighton

11/04/2014

Susanne SchirmerSue_Schirmer200

‘…. That’s the reason why I no longer want to be silent. I’m willing to speak up. As long as it raises awareness on what it is like to live with HIV. It means to live with HIV, the most important part of it is to live.’                 

Excerpt from one of the participant’s recordings in the Speaking Volumes project

On Wednesday this week,  IDS hosted a lunchtime seminar in which local Brighton drama practitioner Alice Booth talked about her experience with using ‘Theatre for Development’ in Uganda and Kenya, alongside her recent participatory project ‘Speaking Volumes’ in which she has been working with a group of people in Brighton, who are living with HIV.

While her experiences in Kenya and Uganda were somewhat mixed, it was the ‘Speaking Volumes’ project that grabbed my attention. When looking for best practice it’s so easy to look towards the more ‘exotic’ places and big donor-funded project and overlook the smaller really good participatory practice that is right on our doorstep. So I thought I’d introduce the project to you and I hope it will inspire you as it inspired me.

‘Speaking Volumes’ is a project that uses storytelling to allow the voices of hidden, stigmatised and marginalised people to be heard. Alice worked with a small group of HIV positive people to enable them to share their experiences of living with HIV. Before recording interviews with the participants, Alice used a portrait workshop, to enable participants to explore themes of identity and self-image and a story workshop to help them to discuss the story they wanted  to share. Participants’ stories were then recorded on a voice recorder (giving people the opportunity to remain anonymous if they choose to do so). Finally the participants worked with portrait artist Jake Spicer, to draw a representation of each of them for their record.

The stories are presented in an installation, with individually designed book covers housing each story.

book with one of the recordings

I will be heading down to Brighton Jubilee Library this weekend, where, the exhibition is exhibited until 8th June and the public can listen to the stories and explore what it means to live with HIV. The recordings can also be accessed online on the project website. Follow the project on facebook or on twitter@SpeakingVols.

As the installation flyer says: ‘Come, leave your pre-conceptions at the door and take five minutes to listen to the stories’.

Colleagues in the Participation, Power and Social Change team have done (and are doing) great work using creative methods. Find out more about how creative and visual participatory methods can be used to give marginalised and often overlooked people a voice  on the Participatory Methods website.

Sue Schirmer works as Communications Coordinator for the Participation, Power and Social Change (PPSC) team at IDS.

Read other blogs about using creative and visual methods: